distressed woman

This semester, students across the U.S. have struggled to maintain their GPA in light of the health and financial issues that the students have faced. The pandemic has been difficult for students, but has anyone checked on the teachers?

Alyssa Striplin has been teaching English at Missouri Western for a few years now, but not even her online class experience prepared her for the emotional and physical toll of moving all her classes to Zoom.

“It feels like I’m always teaching,” Striplin said. “Before, when I left campus, I could go home and play a video game or watch a movie. Now, I’m always in my home office, answering emails, planning online assignments, typing or recording feedback, holding Zoom sessions for class and office hours and so much more.”

Having all classes online creates an abundance of issues with students not receiving the attention they need and difficulty focusing. Striplin tries her best to combat that, but it’s impossible to perfectly replicate a classroom setting through a computer.

“Being face-to-face has an automatic sense of accountability,” Striplin said. “I can see students and tell if they’re listening or struggling to understand. When you teach, you can get really good at reading a room and knowing when to move on or double-back. That’s harder online, though, because the only way for me to tell if students understand the material is what they turn in.”

However, holding students accountable through homework alone isn’t always the best measurement, since Striplin doesn’t want to overwhelm them any more than we’re all overwhelmed in a pandemic. Instead, she does her best to be available to help and hopes students will speak up if they need assistance.

“The lack of presence from the instructor might be a disadvantage for students, so I’ve got to make sure that I’m ‘there’ online for them whenever I can be. I hold Zoom classes, conferences and record audio feedback or lectures so that the interactions seem less digital and impersonal.”

COVID-19 has been tiring for us all, especially when assignments feel like they doubled as teachers grasp for ways to replicate normal class. Professors like Striplin are what keeps students sane this semester.

“It’s exhausting, and my students are probably experiencing something similar,” Striplin said. “So I’m constantly negotiating what students need for class and what they might need for themselves since those two things are becoming harder to separate.”

While some students feel like the workload is overwhelming, others report that their professors are doing their absolute best to make learning easier. Anne Davies-Speer is about to graduate Missouri Western and is very thankful for her professor Dr. Jeney.

“She has done an absolute super job of this,” Davies-Speer said. “There’s obviously some limitations, but the way she’s approached it works really well. She’s not trying to Zoom every minute of class because they can be a bit too much. It’s hard to focus, hard on the eyes. She works with us on what is too much.”

As the semester draws to a close, everyone hopes that next semester will be easier now that we’ve had some practice. Striplin is especially hopeful that we can all push through this pandemic together.

“Long story short—empathy is more important now more than ever.”

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