Editor’s Note: It's been almost a year since Cardinal Gibbons transitioned to distance and hybrid learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. In that time the obstacles have been formidable. But in true Gibbons spirit, our school community faced the challenge head-on and through ingenuity, perseverance, and courage has re-imagined the way teaching and learning takes place during these unprecedented times. We asked educators about their experience since last March. Each day for the next several days we will share one educator’s experience with you in this new series, Lessons Learned. Today, we continue the series with English Educator Mike Sheehan, above.
Q: Looking back, how have you grown as an educator?
A: I have grown as an educator by continually finding professional development opportunities as well as relying on collaborative efforts with some wonderful colleagues to enhance my knowledge and explore what makes them such great educators. I also believe finding ways to help the students relate to the materials we cover in class is an area that I have been able to focus on which has helped me develop over the past 22 years.
Q: What new teaching strategies do you use now that you didn't know or use last spring?
A: With relying on Zoom to facilitate distance education there has been an increase of gamification in many of our assignments that allow the students to be competitive (and collaborative) in working to achieve their goals. In things such as break-out rooms through video conferencing, students feel like they can be put into teams to discuss and prepare assignments feeling a sense of teamwork that might be hard to capture otherwise.
Q: What are you most proud of that you have accomplished, learned, or adapted to?
A: The biggest adaptation has been to find a way, without all being together in a space, to make sure that each member of the class knows they are being cared for and thought about. I have had to reconstruct some elements of assignments for distance education that I would normally have conducted differently if we were all together. I believe that English/Language Arts is a humanities course that is alive, I am glad that I have been able to still make personal connections and offer support for all my students.
Q: What skills and/or strategies will you continue to use when we are not in hybrid/distance learning that will improve teaching and learning in your courses?
A: Some of the biggest adjustments have come in my elective, Introduction to Film. opposed to selecting all the films that we view during the semester, I have had to pivot to a partial adaptation of an independent study. I believe that in the future I will give students more flexibility to pick certain titles on their own, to be watched at home, so we can do more specific discussions in class that cover the many topics we survey. Along with this, in my English classes, I plan to let students have more say in the materials we cover so that they feel ownership of their classes and are more personally engaged in their education.