Teachers turn to TikTok to give a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make virtual learning happen

Kerry Justich
·6 mins read
Sofia Bella shares a snippet of her life as a virtual teacher to kindergarteners. (Photo: TikTok)
Sofia Bella shares a snippet of her life as a virtual teacher to kindergarteners. (Photo: TikTok)

Students and parents have been at the forefront of conversations about virtual learning as families across the country adapt to different forms of online education in response to the pandemic. Now teachers are sharing their side of the screen on TikTok to shed light on the trials and tribulations of making virtual learning work from home.

In a “point of view” video on the app, teachers like Sofia Bella, who declined to provide her last name to Yahoo Life for privacy purposes, are providing a glimpse of what it is like to be an educator during this unprecedented time. For her, this means keeping the attention of 26 kindergarten students over a video chat despite short attention spans, technical difficulties and the absence of any and all in-person interactions. Still, she shows up to her empty classroom and pours her heart into virtually teaching her students just the same.

“It’s something new. Everyone is learning how to do this,” she says of virtual learning. “A lot of teachers are going through this and they’re still managing to remain positive and happy and loving every single day of their job.”

The second-year kindergarten teacher, who works at a Las Vegas, Nev. charter school, says that she was “devastated” when her district transitioned from in-person learning to virtual learning in March as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Still, Bella had anticipated that online schooling would be a temporary solution.

“We didn’t expect this to go on for so long. So I was in hopes that we would come back for the rest of the school year,” she says of the end of the 2019 - 2020 school year. “They ended up shutting down for the rest of the school year. I didn’t want to do the transition, I wanted to see the kids, so I was really heartbroken about it.”

Teachers and administrators at the school began preparing for a hybrid model of learning before starting again in August. Just one week before classes began, however, Bella learned that the school would be going completely virtual. And while the teachers were provided with all that they need to teach the full curriculum from an empty classroom, Bella shares that she was concerned and confused about how the children and parents would adapt.

“How are we going to teach them how to use a computer when we’re not there?” Bella says of her kindergarteners. “I teach at a Title 1 school, so we know that our parents also, a lot of them don’t have access to technology, so it’s their first time using these things too... We treated it as the kids didn’t know, the parents didn’t know, nobody knows and we have to teach everyone.”

Despite the challenges that the technology presented, Bella says “people really underestimate kindergarteners” when it comes to their ability to learn through this new format. By the looks of the videos that she’s shared on TikTok of her teaching and interacting with her students, the kids certainly seem to be understanding their new normal.

And Bella isn’t the only teacher sharing what her side of the virtual classroom looks like. In fact, a number of other educators are doing the same thing and getting millions of views in return — including another kindergarten teacher based in Jackson, Tenn., named Sarah Wilson. As a fourth-year teacher, she tells Yahoo Life that she spent hours watching tutorials about how to use Google Classroom and learning from virtual educators across the country. After putting her skills to practice over the past month of hybrid learning at her school, Wilson explains how her job has turned into something more akin to performance simply by going online.

“Teaching 5-year-olds through a computer screen is interesting, as you could see in the video. The students love to be on camera while being able to interact live with their peers and me,” she says. “I have live [meetings] to work on phonics, but I also record myself teaching our reading and math curriculum so during those recorded videos, I feel a little bit like Dora the Explorer by asking a question and waiting for a response that I know won’t be immediate. That always gives me a good laugh.”

The particular video that she shared on TikTok was one that she intended to just send to friends to give them a look at what her work now entails. After seeing a number of other teachers sharing their virtual teaching styles on the platform, however, she decided to join in.

“We may all be in different boats, but we are all in the same storm, which is teaching in the middle of a pandemic,” Wilson says of connecting with other teachers this way. “Being able to share some positivity to so many people, even those who aren’t educators, around the world has been incredible.”

Beyond that positivity, Wilson also mentions the support of this newfound teacher community on the app as educators of all grades share insight into what their days look like and how difficult their jobs have become.

“I think people will see that despite the circumstances of teaching in the middle of a pandemic, we are still effective educators. We are still fulfilling our call of teaching,” Wilson says. “We will go to the ends of the earth to show our students and their families that we are trying our best and doing everything we can for their babies.”

“People really didn’t know what teachers do and how much work we put in,” Bella adds, “Nobody’s given up.”

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