What it’s like student teaching during a pandemic

Tianna Borchardt, Guest Columnist

Wow, I would have never imagined in a million years that this is how I would spend my last semester of college at UW Oshkosh. The semester that I have been waiting and preparing for over the last three and a half years suddenly comes to a halt and now everything is virtual.

Courtesy of Tianna Borchardt
With schools shut down, Borchardt teaches her fourth grade class through Zoom meetings.

I am an elementary education major with a mathematics minor. When you are in the education preparation program, and my fellow classmates can probably agree with me on this, your final semester of the program is your motivator that pushes you through all the books you have read, lesson plans you have written, and late nights you have spent preparing. It is the semester that we finally get to shine!

All of the information and content that we have learned over the last three and half years is now put to use as we embark on our student teaching journey.

It is an exciting time because you get to work in a classroom Monday through Friday for a whole semester with a bunch of little humans, and it is truly the most rewarding part of teaching.

The moments you dream about, such as seeing those big smiles every morning when they come into the classroom and witnessing that moment when a student finally figures something out and you get to see the “light bulb” turn on, now quickly becomes a reality.

I am currently in an 18-week placement as a student teacher intern in a fourth-grade classroom at Edgar Elementary School in rural Marathon County. On March 16, I was no longer able to be in the classroom with my students and was now expected to teach virtually with my cooperating teachers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an overwhelming time of uncertainty, but one that I will never forget.

As a student teacher during this time, it has been a challenging experience, but also one that has allowed me to think outside the box and grow as an educator.

In my classroom, I have set up weekly Google Zoom meetings with small groups of students who are able to join in, which has allowed me to be in contact with almost all of the students every week.

This pandemic has also allowed me to learn how to utilize technology more in my teaching through a wide variety of academic resources and activities.

However, with working in a rural school, not all students have the same access to technology. With my cooperating teacher, we have had to go to diverse measures to ensure all students are able to continue learning since some families have little to no access to technology at home. This has been another obstacle that we have learned to work around to provide the best support we can from afar.

Courtesy of Tianna Borchardt

In regard to graduation, I was heartbroken when I heard that we would no longer be able to have an in-person ceremony.

Walking across that stage is a goal that I have worked tirelessly toward over the past four years of college and suddenly it can no longer happen like I dreamed it would.

It is a tough thing to accept. However, it is important to keep our greater community safe by avoiding these large, in-person celebrations.

Even though it is a virtual commencement, graduating from UW Oshkosh is an accomplishment that I hope everyone celebrates. It is a rigorous and distinguished achievement that highlights all of the long hours and hard work you have put in academically.

Personally, I know it will not be the same as walking across the stage on May 16, but the class of 2020 should be proud of what they have successfully accomplished thus far.

Even though a lot of things have not went the way I planned during my last semester, such as having virtual interviews for jobs instead of in person, not being in the classroom with my students and having to celebrate my graduation virtually, it is moments like this that teach us to be flexible and persevere for when better times come.