Making Connections Amidst Difficulties: Members Share COVID-19 Commonalities and Challenges

Recently Irene Lantz, one of the teachers participating in the Hexagon Project, wrote to us about her experience dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Her message follows:

When we were last in school my NAHS students were working on their Hexagons. We were to have a meeting the last day we were in school but had to cancel due to the corona virus shutdown. I did not have a means to connect with all of the students since they are not on my roster, and I am sure many did not have supplies to complete them. Perhaps the Juniors and Sophomores will be able to complete them for next year.

I have to say that initially I was terrified by the thought of teaching the various art disciplines with only a computer! Personally, teaching in the classroom, and the act of creating in the arts is tactual, as well as intuitive, so this new method shaped intense thought and change.

I know that this sequestered experience will someday end, but I would hope that all educators are grateful, as I am, to still have some connections with our students during this pandemic.

Irene Lantz

My experience teaching remotely, initially stressful and challenging, has taught me to be more flexible and innovative in my approach to educating the disciplines in art. I teach four different disciplines at a time, and the need to adjust the curriculum for all of the classes was necessary.

I meet daily on Zoom with my AP Art History students for an hour or more, if necessary. My students are wonderful! They even chose to continue learning during the ten snow days closure we had at the beginning of our lock-down. We have continued the classwork in a manner that is very close to our in-classroom meetings, notwithstanding the absence of a sense of corporeality, yet consistently, even when we were supposed to be on break. That my students were that committed to their learning impressed me so much! We were able to finish the curriculum in those first two weeks, and now have four weeks to review before the exam. The students expressed that they look forward to our daily zoom meets because it provides them continuity, a sense of a daily routine, and a connection with their classmates. We are able to utilize PowerPoint, including the use of videos with the zoom app.

Hexagon by Michelle W. Gr 12 2018
Hexagon by Michelle W. Gr 12 2018

Delaware Valley high school uses the Google Classroom app for assignments, communicating with students, and grading. I post daily new assignments, updates, individual student inquiries, and concerns. I try to connect, as often as possible, even to just say hello, or how are you doing today? I meet once a week, with the zoom app, for an hour meeting with my Painting and my Jewelry classes. Students are able to better communicate any misunderstandings with projects, or to talk with others. I always allow a good amount of time at the end of the meeting for students to discuss how they are currently feeling, in this unusual time.  All students are able to meet with me privately, if they choose to. I will zoom with them independently to discuss any issues they need to discuss, be it recommendations, review, critiques, or just to talk openly.

The frustrating part of this particular way of teaching is that some students who have difficulty learning in this manner do not always join in the zoom meets, or respond to the posts on Google Classroom, and may need extra help connecting. That has been the most challenging. Reaching out to these students, trying to communicate, or to help them in any way necessary seems to go beyond the normal methods of educating. This has been a learning curve. As educators, we want to reach all learners and we vary our methods to do so. Teaching with only technology has shown its limitations in this area.

Hexagon by Chiara R, Gr.11 2018

As an educator, being with my students is important, but particularly for me, it is the experiential component that is symbiotic in art education—to be in the same room with them experiencing their authenticity that is phenomenal. It is their beautiful reactions of surprise when they have learned or created something new, seeing their world from a different perspective that make education extraordinary! I know that this sequestered experience will someday end, but I would hope that all educators are grateful, as I am, to still have some connections with our students during this pandemic.