From background clothing mishaps to forgotten mute buttons, teachers open up about the (many) challenges of teaching remotely.
It’s foregone: If you’re a remote teacher during prolonged COVID school closures—whether it’s a Zoom meeting, Google Classroom session, or another app or platform, you’ve experienced the bad and the ugly as much as the good.
From tricky tech to background wardrobe issues, we’ve been hearing a lot about remote teaching mishaps from teachers across grades and disciplines—and we think you might relate.
I had one very intelligent and silly 1st grade girl sneak into a staff meeting. She had previously taken a screen shot of another teacher and changed her name to the teacher’s name. I was hosting a staff meeting before my class and at the end of the meeting in the waiting room was “the teacher.” I assumed the teacher had been bounced out of the meeting so I let her in. Then I heard a giggle and the 1st grade girl appeared. Luckily she revealed herself quickly, but yikes, that could have been a messy situation. —Kristin T., 1st grade teacher
They love to come to meetings with bowls of drippy cereal or crunchy snacks—super noisy eaters! —Jennifer M., K-2 special education teacher
[I’ve seen] kids picking their nose and then putting their hand in front of their own mouth to disguise the fact that they’re eating their boogers. —Katherine S., special education administrator
I had to have a kid suspended on day one, before they all learned to triple-check their mute buttons! I said something about him needing to show his face and not hide inside his hood (we do have a no hood rule where I teach and he had made his hood into a shield with a quarter-sized opening). He said…an expletive. I laugh about it in that I kept my composure and simply said, “Let this be a lesson to everybody about the use of the mute feature.” —Brittany L., high school speech language pathologist
They all hide their phones behind their screens. I have to try to monitor the phone thing for in-person kids, and I don’t know what they’re doing at home. Most of the time they are just icons on a screen because they don’t have to have their cameras on. It’s like a séance: “John, are you here? John, are you with us?” Sigh. —Jodi K., high school special education teacher
It’s definitely comical when the parents are singing and participating more than the students are [and] when the parents are answering the questions for the kids and then like whispering to the kids to answer the questions… it’s like who’s in school? —Bethany D., preschool teacher
I had a dad throwing f-bombs in the background while children [were] trying to concentrate on the teacher. —Katherine S.
I learned that what I thought was a cool lesson really wasn’t for my kids because they had such trouble toggling back and forth between the slides I was presenting on the meet and the notes they needed to type from the presentation onto their google doc. It was “wait, can you go back to #2?” or “I missed that” or “you’re going too fast.” (For the record, no, I wasn’t.) —Jodi K.
On the other hand, says Jodi, her students are the ones who usually bail her out: “They walk me through what I need to do to figure it out. The kids have been so fantastic and patient.”
I have screwed up so many times…the kids can’t access a website or video because I didn’t “purify” it first, I didn’t make a link public, I forgot to hit “post” after assigning something on Classroom, etc. Third graders are very forgiving if you admit that you messed something up. —Siobhan F., 3rd grade teacher
I had a mom walking around in the background in just her bra. It was a small group, maybe six of us, so I don’t think the kids even noticed. I reminded everyone that the cameras were on, and once I did that the mom moved pretty quickly LOL. —Elise F., 1st grade teacher
I’ve had a student walk around with the iPad and give me a tour of his house but all I could see were the white ceilings. —Jennifer M.
On a remote day, I tried to present a video on the Google Meet for my class and no one could hear it (cue panic and sweat). One lone student voice said, “Mrs. K, if you unplug your earbuds from the computer, we’ll be able to hear the video.” She was right. —Jodi K.
While screen-sharing, I had an ad pop up that centered around wine drinking—and contained a swear word. Of course when I tried to X out of it, I entered the site instead of closing the ad. —Kerry B., 9th grade teacher
I’ve had students cry, tantrum, and sneeze—really wet messy sneezes all over the screen. —Jennifer M.
I feel like a moron most days. And look like one, especially when I go on and on and then realize I am muted. —Jodi K.
One of my daughter’s teachers was hiding in her master closet from her three screaming kids who were banging on the closet door. We watched her while she attempted to teach math while this was going on. —Adrian V., kindergarten teacher
In class, I make hundreds of tiny decisions every day. The kids see me do it. They learn patience. On Zoom, they can’t see me as I create breakout rooms, check the text from the reading teacher that someone has to go to her Zoom link, take attendance for the hundredth time, switch cameras, read the chat from the shy kid/kid with tech issues who wants to contribute but is having difficulties, monitor the light reflecting off kids’ faces to see who is watching something else instead of listening to me, take notes on reading discussions, etc. They just see my head bobbing around and me occasionally squinting at something else and they think this is a good time to yell that they have to go to the bathroom. —Siobhan F.