Teaching in a time of COVID


As the one year anniversary approaches in Ontario for the first COVID-19 related school shut down, it is hard to be hopeful about the effect that the pandemic has brought to everyday family life. It has been a very long year for parents and children, and trying to keep up with ever-changing demands has been tough. With significant numbers of parents keeping their kids at home to do online learning on the virtual stream, many are finding out just how difficult teaching can be.
Ms. Alcordo in her virtual classroom. (Photo credit: Sheri Alcordo)

Ms. Alcordo in her virtual classroom. (Photo credit: Sheri Alcordo)

We wanted to hear from a teacher about what the experience in the classroom has been, including the challenges and the hopes that the pandemic has brought to teachers and their students.

The Downsview Advocate caught up with a teacher who has a long history in teaching in the area: Sheri Alcordo, who taught at Driftwood Public School for two decades, and who taught at Gulfstream Public School up until online learning began.

“You have to be more creative, and challenging students to pay attention with online learning,” says, Ms. Alcordo. As parents have now learned, keeping students in front of a screen for hours on end every day of the week is no easy task. The younger students can only focus for so long, and there are other issues, such as internet connectivity and access to equipment such as laptops that can also be a challenge to learning.
Pumpkin carving in Ms. Alcordo’s classroom. (Photo credit: Sheri Alcordo)

Pumpkin carving in Ms. Alcordo’s classroom. (Photo credit: Sheri Alcordo)

Ms. Alcordo is currently virtually teaching students from grades 4 to 6 who have developmental delays. She explains that only through engaging parents and students can you hope to achieve success. “When I’m teaching, I’m really thinking about what I’m trying to do explicitly, but we have fun too. The parents and the students need to understand why we are doing things and that makes them better students.”

But the virtual stream of learning is very different from learning in a classroom, especially when working with students who have physical challenges. “For parents to understand the hours that it takes to plan and learn with limited resources- and it takes a lot time, we are having to be patient and kind to one another,” and this requires teamwork. “As a parent myself, I understand how difficult it can be for parents when you have so many things on the go. But I’m expecting the parent’s partnership.”

“Finding ways to make those connections with a kid through a screen is also a search to find the best in that person,” Ms. Alcordo shares. The lack of physical resources is a challenge. Young children learn by touching, feeling and socializing. Having to compress a day’s time and the physical space of a classroom into a small, squared screen can be difficult. Ms. Alcordo finds that a “strategy that builds meaning together” is a successful approach.

“On the virtual stream, there are not a lot of resources. Not a lot of hands-on things to play and learn with. In a regular classroom, you have the ability to reach out and grab a book and the tactile things you need. Especially when working with kids with developmental delays that need those experiences. You have to ask: ‘what do you have at home?’.”

Even through all of these challenges Ms. Alcordo says that “It’s been wonderful, I have been thinking in new, completely different ways about how to approach teaching.” She particularly liked the opportunity to work with parents and students, because “I want the parents to know that we are going through this together”. She says that the best compliment she has gotten so far from a student is that when they are in class with her “I feel like I am at home”.

Taught at Driftwood PS 23 years, Gulfstream PS 2 years and currently virtual school 1 year, TDSB (just celebrated 25 years with TDSB)

Premier of Ontario’s Teacher of the Year, 2012

Golden Apple Teacher of the Year Award, 2011

OTIP Teacher of the Year nominee x2

TDSB Teaching Excellence nominee x 1

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