Virtual learning: the perspective of a teacher

Virtual learning: the perspective of a teacher

Roudha Al-Thani, Reporter

NOV. 3 – COVID-19 and the virtual era that followed had an impact on everyone’s physical and mental health. Virtual learning was a challenge for every student one way or another; however, ASD students were able to overcome these challenges gradually. But what were the challenges that ASD’s esteemed teachers faced and how did they overcome that difficult time?


Thanks to Ms. Manacheril, one of ASD’s science teachers, we know more about the experiences of a teacher during virtual learning and teaching. 


Could you present yourself?

Hi, my name is Maria Manacheril, I am a high school science teacher. I teach biology and IB chemistry and this is my seventh year at ASD.


What inspired you to teach?

I actually just kind of fell into it, it was not something I really planned. But once I started I realized that I really enjoyed it. I especially enjoy being with students, high-school age, they’re curious, they’re inquisitive, they’re funny and they brighten my day. 


Did virtual teaching affect your passion for teaching in any way?

Actually yeah, it was not what we signed up for at all – it’s not our normal way of teaching. It was very exhausting to have to switch everything over to a virtual platform and it wasn’t the same because students aren’t as engaged when they’re online and they’re not their normal selves; they’re not interacting with each other, they’re not telling jokes, they’re not making me laugh and I really missed that.


As a teacher how did you try to keep them engaged and participating? 

Luckily when we were fully virtual, whatever we were studying at the time was actually pretty interesting. For instance, for the biology students, we were doing our genetics unit which everyone was really interested in and was actually one of our most favorite units that students said that they enjoyed. So I am glad that they really liked the content even though they had to do it online. With the hybrid teaching, we could at least find ways to keep them interested in the content while they were at school so that they could go home the next day and be more invested in the learning and they always have things to look forward to when they come to school at last.


What were the positive aspects you encountered when teaching online?

I definitely am really glad the high school decided to make one-hour lessons as opposed to 85 minutes. I think that was a really necessary shift because keeping students online for that long is really tough. I was still able to do things like go on breaks so I would tell them to go take a break, go get a snack, go for a walk around your house or around your neighbor and come back after five minutes. I never had students who would disappear or never come back, so there was still a lot of trust between student and teacher.


How would you say virtual learning and teaching impacted students and teachers when we got back to in-person learning? 

There were a handful of students who said that they really missed virtual learning, they liked being able to attend classes with their pajamas, they liked being able to go to the kitchen and get a snack, they liked being home. Those students really had the focus to do it, most students agreed that learning at home by themselves is very difficult, they missed the interaction with their peers especially, they felt more motivated to work when they are in school rather than in the house. So I think for the most part I am really happy to be back on campus.


What do you have to say to the teachers who have struggled or are struggling with virtual teaching? 

I want to be really open about this only because I think it’s important to talk about it and not hide from it. Last year, after teaching virtually and then doing hybrid teaching and then switching back and forth and then we had to close and then re-open, I actually went through a period of anxiety and depression and it took me a long time to realize what was happening; my brain processes were slowing down, I wasn’t thinking as quickly or adapting as well as I could. Once I finally figured out what was happening, it was easy for me because I’ve always been a person who could ask for help and so I did. I went to my doctor, I got a referral for a psychiatrist, started seeing a psychologist, started doing yoga more regularly, started exercising regularly; I needed to

Photographer: Z. Ayu Sabrina (’23)

get myself out of that place. For some people, it’s not that easy, so it’s really typical because you never want to think of yourself as weak, like ‘I can’t handle this’, so I just want teachers who are struggling to know we have all experienced this at some point and if you need help, feel empowered to get the help you need.