Art teacher adjusts to virtual education
September 18, 2020
Transitioning to online learning has been a challenge for all members of OPS this year. The 2020-2021 school year is unlike any other, and students are still getting used to education at home. Teachers are also still figuring out how to make online learning the most efficient and beneficial for everyone. One teacher who has tried her best to make these adjustments is Mrs. Cisco, a pottery and art teacher at Central.
The choice to switch from the 3/2 family model to complete online brought Cisco major relief, but it was also kind of a surprise.
“I was preparing for the family 3/2 plan for a long time. I was somewhat confident in that, but I also had some safety concerns for myself and my husband, who also works (at Central). So, I felt a big sense of relief for the safety issues,” Cisco said.
Although being at home is the safer option for everyone, Mrs. Cisco often finds it difficult to teach to her full potential. Engaging with students online is much different than being in the classroom. She occasionally finds herself losing sight of that initial sense of relief.
The teachers and other OPS staff members, as well as students, received very short notice before switching to online learning.
“We found out on Friday on our way home from work that we would be switching to virtual. We had to have everything prepared by Thursday,” Cisco said.
It was a rushed process getting all of the art supplies ready for students to take home, and the Cisco’s experienced an extra layer of stress.
“Our daughter got sick on Saturday—she was throwing up and had a fever. Me and Mr. Cisco and our two kids got tested on Monday for Covid. We had to depend on our other art teachers and students to help us put together packets of supplies,” Cisco said.
Most of the art supplies given to students were donated by friends and family of the art teachers. It was not easy getting supplies for all 200+ art students, Cisco mentioned. Lillian McEvoy and Ella Cleaver, both pottery students in Cisco’s classes, cut all the clay and put the packets together for other pottery students.
Even after week of school, Cisco is not sure how well her new pottery 1-2 students are understanding the class. Most students don’t participate in class much.
“It’s hard because I can’t look over their shoulder and watch them working. They don’t turn on their cameras or talk unless I ask a question. I haven’t had these students in class before, so it’s hard to get to know them well. It’s very different from being in the classroom,” Cisco said.
While one benefit of online learning is avoiding behavior problems with students, Cisco is afraid that they aren’t engaged in her classes. She is nervous that they are sitting idly at home. When she’s in the classroom, Cisco can’t stand when students have nothing to work on, so not knowing where everyone is at with their projects is difficult for her.
She has been experiencing some attendance issues with some students. While her upper level classes are usually completely present, that is not the case for her other classes.
“My pottery 5-6 students all show up, but in some of my other classes, there are still some kids I haven’t met at all. They don’t sign on to their other classes either,” Cisco said.
Technology was causing frustrations for Mrs. Cisco at first. She found it difficult to figure out how to do demonstrations over a screen.
“Presenting demonstrations on how to do things and get the right angles has been hard. I have also tried using YouTube and taking videos at home, but it isn’t easy,” Cisco said.
On a brighter note, Mrs. Cisco feels like she has benefitted from virtual learning, even through the hard parts. She has been introduced to new programs that she will continue to use after the pandemic.
Cisco is looking forward to seeing students return in the second quarter, going back to the original 3/2 model plan.
“I would love to have my students here and I would feel safe doing the half and half plan. Personally, that’s the best option for me,” Cisco said.
Overall, Mrs. Cisco takes pride in the current efforts of students and staff of Omaha Public Schools.
“I’m really proud of our students,” Cisco said. “I think we’re doing a good job and I’m proud of our staff as well. I think we’ve come together and a great community has grown out of this.”