By Jessie Reestman, Staff Writer
Teachers have always worn many hats and teaching the required subjects from textbooks is just one of their many talents. Some days they may act as a nurse when a child returns from the playground with a bump or a bruise. Sometimes they are detectives trying to figure who was responsible for the latest incident. Other times teachers are salesmen, convincing students to buy into putting in the extra effort because it will help them in their future. Teachers are life coaches, comedians, cheerleaders and role models. However, due to the recent pandemic closing classrooms all across this country, teachers have now put on a new hat, the hat of a home-school coordinator.
I recently sat down with Elgin Public Resource Teacher Kim Zwingman to discuss her role in educating students online. Zwingman describes the situation as, “Overwhelming.” As a resource teacher, Kim educates students on a one-on-one basis with an individualized educational plan for each student and admits from the perspective of being a parent and a teacher combined, “It is definitely time consuming. In my case, I have additional paperwork, meetings, documentation and phone calls. Sometimes trying to download videos can take longer than usual, as there are a lot of people using technology. I reach out to my students daily starting at 8:25 to 11:30 a.m. and return to online educating from 12:45 til about 2:30 p.m. In addition, as a parent of younger kids, I have to spend more time than usual helping organize their space, materials, technology, and assignments.”
Kim works with both elementary and high school students. “I am Zooming with mostly all my younger students, but if they aren’t focused or in the mood, working through the material can be difficult. However, when working with older students, working through Google classroom to post videos and assignments, can also be a challenge if they are not motivated to email or contact me when they have questions.”
Kim finds organization and keeping kids motivated to be her biggest concern. “Without face-to-face personal interaction with students, I think it is difficult for some students to not only be motivated for the class interaction via technology, but to remain motivated to complete an assignment beyond that time.” She also feels students can sometimes struggle to operate apps that are needed for correspondence.
On the positive side, Mrs. Zwingman feels she has been able to connect with parents in a way that was not possible before. Together they discuss scheduling, homework, needs, and even share a few laughs.
“Nothing I have learned throughout my own education could have prepared me for this. I am learning as well.”