Cal U's Dr. Marcia Hoover starts a group for teachers who have had to make rapid adjustments to provide online education.
As all of education moved to remote operations earlier this spring, the demands and pressure on teachers intensified.
Through weekly virtual meetings, Dr. Marcia Hoover is helping Cal U alumni teachers persevere and succeed through this challenging time.
A professor in Cal U’s Department of Secondary Education and Administrative Leadership, Hoover has more than 25 years of experience teaching distance education.
While preparing updates for her Teaching in an Online Environment course, which will be offered during Cal U’s Summer College, Hoover heard from parents and teachers about the different struggles and frustrations they are experiencing. Hoover posted a simple Facebook message asking teachers what tools they were using and problems they were experiencing.
“This all came about organically, and I received more than 50 responses to that message,” Hoover said. “The focus is not just on supporting teachers during this time, but equipping teachers with the tools and skills to support the whole child and the whole family.
Nearly 20 Cal U alumni teachers participated in the first meeting, which was held via Zoom. The group meets Monday evenings for 30-45 minutes, discussing topics such as how to reach students, support parents and use technological tools; different pedagogical approaches and content resources; and ways to practice self-care.
A Google form allows participants to submit items of interest.
“It is a kind of just-in-time training,” Hoover said. “The first concern for the teachers is their students, and the kids are why they became teachers in the first place.
“They want to know that they are OK, that they have food and are safe.”
Jessica Lane ’10, 12, who took courses taught by Hoover at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, has found the meetings helpful. She teaches middle school and high school business and history classes at the Columbia Borough Title One School District in Lancaster County, Pa.
Lane said one challenge is students’ access to the internet at home.
“For me it’s nice to hear from other teachers, especially ones from well-off school districts, that they are also experiencing the same struggle,” she said. “If you’d have told me 10 years ago I’d be teaching via Zoom and teaching Google classrooms, I’d have thought you were crazy.
These meetings are very helpful, and she (Hoover) likes to have graduates with different age ranges brainstorm together.”
Bryan Schuerman ’09, 16, a TV meteorologist in Springfield, Ill., also teaches science at Grant Middle School, and the school district had never implemented remote or e-learning when face-to-face classes stopped on March 13.
He worked closely with Hoover while earning his M.Ed. and agreed with Lane that getting technology in students’ hands is a challenge all teachers face.
“It’s fantastic that four years since earning my master’s degree that I am connecting back to my alma mater with other educators from different states.” Schuerman said. “We can share how we’ve handled similar scenarios and bounce ideas off each other.
“Most of us are in lockdown situations and just interacting with each other has been great. These meetings are enjoyable and have been extremely helpful.”
Hoover welcomes all teaching alumni to participate and can email her at email@example.com.
I was hoping to collect information to inform my instruction and discovered a huge need,” Hoover added. In the current situation, virtual learning has to take a variety of forms. There is no one right solution, and every school has its own unique set of challenges. Technology is only a tool; the power comes in how you use the technology.
“The challenge is real for everyone involved. Teachers, students and parents are all dealing with a learning curve and need support as they navigate these tumultuous times.”