Teachers are always heroes. Their passion for educating future generations is such an important calling. But during this pandemic, teachers have had to pivot and begin teaching from a distance.
Carol Kaplan Koepenick has been a teacher for over 30 years. She has taught at both private and public schools in Studio City and was a teacher at my childrens’ elementary school. Carol was a classroom teacher before joining the LAUSD Arts Education Branch. She specializes in Arts Integration and worked to develop the Creative Arts Network at the Arts Branch which connects her with over 600 students weekly.
Carol wrote this article which gives a look at her teaching day:
Teaching From a Distance
I still wake up at the crack of dawn. There’s something about getting up early and prepping for the day when my family is still asleep. Preparation used to include making a lunch, packing up my traveling cart with speakers, iPad, stories, and my clearly lettered and colorful charts that included the standards, the warm-up, the lesson and the reflection of the lesson. This was teaching arts in elementary school. I would be ready to set up shop in the auditorium (or the forgotten classroom filled to the brim with extra school desks and dusty cutting boards). Those days are gone.
Everything has changed thanks to a worldwide pandemic that makes up close and personal interaction impossible. Teach from afar? Maybe this would be a logical time for me to retire? It would be easy to fade into the ether of the internet. Is the universe telling me something?
Today I wake up, get dressed and walk a few steps into the alcove of my bedroom where I have a green screen, a computer, a monitor, speakers and a plan book so thick with papers and codes, you would think I worked for the FBI. My Google Drive holds lessons loaded onto colorful slides that burst with information about pantomime, tableau and improvisation. I put on moisturizer, some tinted chap stick and enter the code of numbers that will, hopefully, lead me to a connection. A zoom connection. As I watch the grey bars circle and gain momentum, the word “connecting” flashes before me. I take a breath, say a prayer and wait for what’s on the other side.
As the screen opens up, I see faces and smiles. Lovely smiles (some with teeth, some with missing teeth), various voices in the state of “unmute” saying hello and holding up cats, new puppies, stuffed animals, or little baby brothers and sisters to share with me. Ahhhh, connection!
The New Classroom
Totally reliant on technology, the new classroom is now just a desk with lesson plans and the all-important computer. Teachers are tasked with filling in the gaps while attempting to successfully deliver instruction teaching from a distance.
Acting Out Through the Internet
I have lessons, vocabulary words, stories, and pictures to share with them. I have 45 minutes with them all once a week. We talk, we warm up, we learn about different cultures, and the world through a myriad of stories. We act them out, we play and most importantly, we connect.
Most of the students are eager to participate in acting things out. They become characters from the story, they leave their screens to fetch costumes or props. I can hear parents laughing at the improvisations we share together. I see Grandmas cleaning in the background or bringing snacks to my enthusiastic learners. Brothers and sisters become our audience. We share laughs and tears as we use our bodies, voices and imaginations to explore different ideas. We enjoy being together and share something special, a connection with the arts. Our humanity getting quite a workout during these different and unfamiliar times.
Teaching On Zoom, One Room At A Time
I have come to rely on these little boxes in front of me. Each day is different and I never know what to expect. Yes, it is frustrating when a student’s audio goes out, or it’s on and you hear that they are surrounded by noise and commotion. And yes, not all kids have their video on and that’s when the real gift comes privately through chat, “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii Mrs. K! I am here.”
Last week my router gave out and I experienced a full on panic attack. How will they know I am having technical issues? They are counting on me.
Even through all the difficulties, obstacles and challenges, my students and I share a bond of understanding that we are here, now.
What will happen? When will we resume life as usual? How will our classrooms be different? How has this experience changed us all? I don’t have the answers to these questions and after I commit them to paper, I will forget them because I do not know what will happen next. I do know that I can connect by teaching on Zoom, one Zoom room at a time. I know that my village has strong, creative minds that show me how to stay connected every day and for that, I am thankful. Wouldn’t you know that I have come to rely on those toothless smiles? I think I’ll stick around.
Thank you for continuing your teaching from a distance, Carol!
And thank you to all the teachers who have continued to educate our children during the most difficult of times.
You are our heroes!
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Loved the Carol Kopenick. Article. She. Has been a beacon for arts educators for a decade or more. Glad she got some attention. Melanie