Jesuit Chronicle

Can teachers maintain the same relationships with students over Zoom?

Word+web+describes+roles+teachers+play+in+students%E2%80%99+lives%2C+something+difficult+to+maintain+through+online+learning.+%0A

Word web describes roles teachers play in students’ lives, something difficult to maintain through online learning.

Teachers have been trying numerous methods to maintain relationships with their students over Zoom, despite the challenges hindering them. With both students and teachers adjusting to the online learning environment, class connections have been established between both students and teachers. However, connections between those in the classroom have been altered, and forming relationships takes an entirely different form over Zoom.

This is especially challenging for the Freshman class. Teachers of the Freshman class have taken extra care to engage their students, helping them to establish connections with their peers in any way possible.

“Certainly try to make things more lighthearted,” Freshman Theology teacher Mr. Lantz said. “A lot more small talk and personal conversation. [I] try to create that personal connection where you would normally just be able to be in the same room with the person.”

The primary differences between in-person classes and Zoom classes are not only the deep connections formed between peers, but also the small interactions between teachers and students in class or during passing periods.

“It’s harder because it’s all of the tiny little things that just don’t happen,” Theology teacher Ms. Barry said. “It’s when you walk into the classroom; it’s that whole beginning of class and it’s that whole walking out of the classroom. There’s moments where they walk by you or you walk by them and you have these tiny interactions.”

Along with small interactions, teachers have been trying numerous different methods to engage their students as a whole, establishing a sense of community within a virtual classroom. These methods include small discussions before class, bonding activities in breakout rooms, and much more.

“I’ve watched other teachers’ classrooms and sat in on Zooms, so I saw one teacher who let students tell her how they’re doing in a private message on Zoom chat which I really like because it’s kind of intimidating to talk on Zoom when there are 30 people in the class,” Mr. Lantz said.

In addition to teachers creating new methods of connecting with their students, students also have the opportunity to take initiative and maintain relationships with their teachers. This can be in the form of small actions, such as staying after class to provide feedback or even simply speaking up during class.

“Asking questions during class is a really nice way to engage in class,” senior Savannah Fitts said. “Also talking during breakout rooms or getting to know teachers better by sometimes staying after the Zoom to give them advice…Especially with Environmental Science, Ms. Humm is new, and I’ll sometimes stay after and say, ‘I really like doing this, or I really like this project.’”

While small interactions hold great value, classes involving deep discussions between students find challenges when breaking barriers between students. Connecting through a screen proves especially difficult, as class discussions may require a strong sense of trust between students, something difficult to build virtually.

“I learned early in my teaching career that if you ask people to be vulnerable and do something that makes them raw, you have to support them,” Ms. Barry said. ”So anytime I give them an assignment that makes them be vulnerable or asks them to be vulnerable, I’m going to support them by reading it and responding to them, but I also want them to share with their partner…I tell them to build trust a little bit at a time, and trust as much as you can and a little bit more. That’s actually going so much better than I thought it would because I was worried about that over Zoom.”

While maintaining a strong sense of motivation for school can be difficult for students when learning virtually, teachers also may feel drained from the constrictions placed through online learning, hindering them from fully connecting with their students.

“It’s a lot more emotional energy from me,” Ms. Barry said. “I just have to be very obvious that I love you and I care about you and I want you guys to talk to each other, and I’m trying [to come] up with creative ways of doing [that] over Zoom.”

About the Writer
Photo of Scout Jacobs
Scout Jacobs, Staff Writer







Scout Jacobs is a managing editor for the Jesuit Chronicles at Jesuit High School. As a senior in high school, this is her third year doing...

Microaggressions Impact Student Learning and Classroom Dynamic

Microaggressions+come+in+various+forms+and+can+amass+into+a+detrimental+impact

Turner Consulting Group

Microaggressions come in various forms and can amass into a detrimental impact

Microaggressions have become troublingly normalized in modern society. Schools, as microcosms of society, are not exempt from this issue; underrepresented students battle not only microaggressions, but also the implications they cause to a learning environment.  

The Merriam-Webster defines a microaggression as a comment or action that subtly expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group, such as a racial minority.

While junior Jenny Duan accepts this definition, she recognizes the need for further details. 

“Microaggressions can either be implicit or explicit,” Duan said. “Oftentimes, the aggressor doesn’t realize that what they’re saying is hurtful and is usually based on stereotypes or false perceptions of people.”

Duan, a Chinese American daughter of immigrant parents, recognizes the harm that microaggressions can cause. She agrees that microaggressions have become alarmingly normalized in everyday life, especially in colloquial conversations. 

Senior Aliyah Ramirez contends that microaggressions are especially prevalent in the classroom. She has personally experienced microaggressions unjustly correlating her Latin American heritage with her intelligence. These comments have degraded Ramirez’s confidence in her academic abilities, impacting her learning. 

“I think [these microaggressions] definitely make you question your intelligence,” Ramirez said. “I know that I’ve had to work extra hard just to prove my intelligence when it’s being insulted because of my ethnicity or my skin color.”

Senior Amen Zelalem has also faced microaggressions in the classroom which impacted her learning. In her case, the microaggression was committed by a teacher who used a derogatory Asian slur. While the action did not personally affect Zelalem, who is of Ethiopian descent, she still felt discomfort in the instance. 

For the rest of the class, Zelalem’s attention was solely focused on the microaggression, distracting her from the day’s lesson. She was torn as to whether she should speak up about the microaggression or remain silent since it was not directed towards her culture. 

“It’s hard to be in a class where the teacher is supposed to be teaching you, but you feel like you need to teach the teacher,” Zelalem said. “It feels like too much to be trying to make both the students and teachers less ignorant about their microaggressions on a daily basis.” 

The issue with microaggressions is how subtle they are; they usually fly under the radar except for the people that they affect. Microaggressions affecting students in schools are especially problematic as children are so vulnerable. Continually dealing with microaggressions in a school environment negatively affects student learning, especially for underrepresented communities. 

Diving deeper into this issue, Mia Simmons embarked on a research journey to explore the impact of racial microaggressions on students. Simmons, a recent graduate of the class of 2020, culminated her high school career with this project. Her main impetus for this journey was recognizing the need for a more inclusive race and culture-based education. 

“I wanted to have sufficient research to be able to educate people on microaggressions,” Simmons said. “I think this is a problem that some students have to face while others have the privilege of not even knowing what it is.”

Simmons’s research journey solidified the notion that microaggressions do impact student learning. In particular, she cited a 2007 study by Columbia University about the implications of microaggressions on student learning. 

“Microaggressions are detrimental to persons of color because they impair performance in a multitude of settings by sapping the psychical and spiritual energy of recipients and by creating inequities… Experience with microaggressions results in a negative racial climate and emotions of self-doubt, frustration, and isolation on the part of victims,” according to the study. “These feelings of self doubt can make it difficult for a student to feel like they belong in a class,” Simmons added. 

These adverse effects of microaggressions will continue to affect students unless teachers and students have adequate racial literacy training, according to Simmons. Expecting students of color to be responsible for handling microaggressions adds unnecessary—and quite frankly unfair—stress. 

“I think teachers and school administrators have a lot of responsibility,” Simmons said. “The culture of how students treat each other is set by teachers. If teachers have sufficient training to set an environment where microaggressions are unacceptable, that’s a big step to preventing the harmful impacts microaggressions can cause.”

Simmons stresses that teachers and administrators have a duty to incorporate racial literacy education to foster an inclusive learning environment. Conversely, students have a duty to engage with that education to develop their racial literacy. The burden for racial literacy does not lie solely on teachers; students must do their part as well.  

In the end, it really does come down to education for both students and teachers. Developing a racial literacy education is crucial to handling microaggressions and the harm they cause to student learning. 

 

About the Writer
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Reet Chatterjee, Editor

A senior at Jesuit High School, Reet Chatterjee strives to better humanity with his writing. His writing focuses include social justice, politics, reform,...

Podcast: Digital Learning: A Student’s Perspective Episode 2

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A student’s digital learning setup during distance synchronous learning at Jesuit High School.

About the Writer
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Isabel Crespo, Junior Editor in Chief

Isabel Crespo is an editor for the Jesuit Chronicle. She is a Junior at Jesuit High School and is excited to pursue her passion for writing on a deeper...

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