John Lore was nowhere near his classroom when the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to turn to virtual learning earlier this year. The New Jersey National Guard major was deployed in Kosovo.
“From that distance, I could tell that things were already not normal,’’ Lore said.
Lore, an English professor at Rowan College of South Jersey, is back stateside, but like so many other teachers, he is adapting to the frequently shifting rules of engagement in education. While frustrating at times for teachers, parents and students, those changes have required equal parts patience and flexibility.
For teachers in the National Guard, their service has prepared them for one certainty. On any mission, a plan is only as good as how well it can be adjusted if something were to go off schedule.
“Until they can figure out a vaccine or anything like that, it’s going to be very confusing,’’ said Lt. Col. William Snyder of the New York National Guard. “I don’t think anyone knows what the best answer is.’’
Snyder is an eighth-grade history teacher. Some parents, though, are keeping their children home, causing Snyder to impart knowledge through a computer screen.
“I’ve got to do my normal classes, but some way I have to find a method to teach these kids at home, too,’’ said Snyder, a teacher for 20 years. “… It’s a lot of stress.’’
For students heading back to Snyder’s school in Oakfield, New York (about 40 miles northeast of Buffalo), their parents must record their temperatures daily online, Snyder said. If the child has a fever, he or she must be tested, and contact-tracing begins, he said.
Familiar safety protocols, such as wearing a mask, six feet of social distance and available hand sanitizer, will be required, Snyder said.
Those measures are not a concern for 1st Lt. Marquis Strickland of the New Jersey National Guard. The fifth-grade language arts teacher of bilingual students started teaching online only, beginning in September.
Strickland joined the Guard in 2013, a few years before he became a father. His children are ages 12, 10 and 9.
“As a teacher, I know students learn best when you’re present physically with them,’’ Strickland said. “You have more control over the environment, and it makes for a better experience for me, a better experience for students. As a parent, I want my children to be in the classroom. However, given the pandemic, I want them also to be safe. I know that they can’t right now, and I’m OK with that.’’
Like so many in his field, Lore has seen the effect teachers can have on students, and vice versa. He never intended to enter education in the first place. He began as a journalist when he realized that working in a newsroom did not energize him like it should.
Lore enrolled in graduate school, and as part of his coursework, he became an adjunct instructor at an area community college. He found his calling.
Now he is being asked to develop new skills. Despite that, Lore said he still can provide students with a similar education that through face to face learning.
“There is going to be a learning curve,’’ Lore said. “Fostering that personal relationship with students, I still think that’s very possible online, but it’s just a different medium and a different tool set that we’re going to have to use.’’Read comments