Teachers should seize this moment to connect with their students

April 2, 2020

A Lexington Junior High School student took this photo as a part of a photography class project to document their lives during the coronavirus confinement in Anaheim.

This is a teachable moment. We are living history today. Now is an opportunity to reflect within the moment.

John Bautista

For one generation, the defining moment of their lives was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, for another 9/11.

For this generation of young people, the coronavirus crisis will be the marker of everything that was before and how now everything is different.

There is no better time to make education relevant.

We have in our pockets the technology to access the world for resources, to use our imagination to create, deliver and showcase our teaching — and to connect — using tools that have never before been available.

Now more than ever, in this time of social distancing and isolation, it is important to stay connected. Not just technologically linked, but emotionally connected with our students and their families, with our community.

Five years ago, I wanted to stretch myself so I took a leap of faith and started teaching online English and film classes to students from across the Anaheim Union High School District. It was scary at the beginning. I was outside my comfort zone and made many mistakes by trying to do the same thing I was doing with my seat-based classes rather than redesigning for an online platform. But the experience transformed me by allowing me to experiment with new technological tools and methods that helped me redesign all of my classes.

One of the preconceived notions I had about distance learning was that there would be little connection between me and students from across our school district.

What I discovered, however, was quite the contrary. There is sometimes more connection online because the lesson truly can be a one-on-one experience where all voices in a group are heard. Communication tools within learning management systems — whether it be videoconferencing with chat functions or the ability to switch to one-on-one, small group, or large group sessions with the click of a button — provides access and equity opportunities that are not available within the physical constraints of a classroom.

Here are two opportunities to connect with students, teachers and your wider community, and demonstrate student work:

  1. Share positive stories, the moments of success, you are experiencing via distance learning. Send them weekly to your community via social media.
  2. Launch a project: Teachers from across our district are working on a project for students to participate in that is focused on the question: How Is the Coronavirus Affecting Your Life? Students will be able to create, deliver and showcase their thoughts in a variety of mediums and platforms of their choice.

Unfortunately, it has taken a pandemic to reveal what teachers provide each day through meaningful lessons as well as essential nutritional and social-emotional services.

For some students, and not a few adults, the classroom is the only consistent, stable, secure, reliable and loving place in their lives. Since the school closure order, students have contacted me to say they didn’t want their school closed and, (even if they would never say so before) they miss their classes, their friends and their teachers.

Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Teachers now have an opportunity to create remote classrooms that connect with students and the world around them, even at a distance.

Once this emergency passes, education will be transformed in ways we had not previously imagined and so will you. There is no better time to begin this transformation than right now.


John Bautista is a National Board-certified teacher and currently public information officer at the Anaheim Union High School District, where he previously taught grades 7-12, including online classes in English and film, for 17 years.

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the author. EdSource is interested in hearing from teachers about how they are adapting to distance learning and rising to the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.

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