Lancer Spotlight: Jones overcomes the struggles of learning how to teach during virtual learning

With+many+schools+transitioning+to+a+virtual+platform%2C+interns+not+only+have+to+learn+how+to+be+a+teacher%2C+but+also+how+to+work+the+technology+to+do+so.

graphic by Sierra Rossman

With many schools transitioning to a virtual platform, interns not only have to learn how to be a teacher, but also how to work the technology to do so.

The short URL of the present article is: https://lhslance.org/79vf6

Becoming a teacher is a dream for many students across the nation, but how do you learn how to teach virtually?

Internships have been the source of anxiety for many students because of the restrictions placed on in-person activities, and as a result, in-person internships. Although teaching internships are still available, the students must not only learn how to navigate teaching for the first time, they also have to adapt to distance learning with the rest of teachers around the world.

Sharon Jones was a teacher intern at LHS, where she assisted English 10 and AP Composition teacher Damon Norko, during the 2020 fall semester. She completed her internship just before Thanksgiving.

Jones began her teaching internship in spring 2020 at Crestwood Middle School, and after only teaching two lessons, the country seemingly came to a halt. 

“I was at Crestwood Middle School and I had only taught two lessons and then all of a sudden, everything was shut down. Normally, I would have done my internship into May, but it was only March and it was done. That was a lot. I didn’t get a lot of that experience which was really hard and disappointing,” said Jones. 

When the next school year came around, LHS’s Site Coordinator for Mount St. Mary’s University, Darren Hornbeck, was eager to place Jones in an environment where he felt that she could thrive.

“We have an excellent teaching staff here at Linganore, and the teachers are very eager to help new people coming into the profession. The level of commitment shown by our staff in working with interns is very inspiring. I love doing intern placements because it’s great to see all the growth that takes place as a result,” said Hornbeck.

Although Jones was ecstatic to have another opportunity to finish her internship this past fall, the technology involved with distance learning was a daunting challenge.

“The technology, quite frankly, is steep for everybody. When I was delivering a lesson one time I was glitching and didn’t realize it, but Mr. Norko saw that there were some problems and called my attention to it. That was a very frustrating day. Just going from being in the classroom where you can refer to the text and refer to board and other resources, to this environment where we are switching from tab to tab with lag in time makes the job a little more awkward,” said Jones. 

Jones is not alone in her frustration, many teachers are trying to find the best balance between teaching the material effectively and connecting with their students. 

Despite the challenges that Jones has been presented with, her passion for teaching is obvious to Norko, her mentor. 

A lot of people get into teaching, but Ms. Jones certainly has a gleam in her eye that really says she loves it,”

— Damon Norko

“I think that there are a lot of people that get into teaching, but Ms. Jones certainly has a gleam in her eye that really says she loves it. She is really engaged in English as a passion which comes across to the students. When she gets rolling, it’s just beautiful,” said Norko. 

Not only is Jones’ passion evident to the students, but she is also able to easily connect with them during this strange time.

“Ms. Jones’ teaching style was great and she helped a lot with the topics [Norko] talked about. She did not go too fast when reading topics, and made sure everyone understood the topics. Ms. Jones was able to connect with us because she was fun to talk to,” said sophomore Samantha Coblentz, a student in Norko’s English 10 class.

The passion that is evident in Jones’ teaching is also present when Norko teaches as well. Learning under an experienced teacher, such as Norko, has given Jones the opportunity to adopt methods that he uses, as well as change her teaching style to connect more with the students.

“Just being in class with [Norko] you can see his energy and enthusiasm. Going forward I am going to do ‘Grammar Wednesday,’ folders, and fun questions. His organization methods really make it easy for the students to be able to focus on the big picture and respond to the content,” said Jones.

Norko was not expecting to mentor another Mount St. Mary’s teacher intern so quickly, his last intern being just last year, but going into this unprecedented year, he was more than happy to have the help.

“There’s a quote that I always say, and I’ve said it to Ms. Jones plenty of times this semester already. ‘In education, if you’re offered help, take it,’” said Norko. 

Although learning to teach during this time is a challenge, the first-hand experience that Jones is getting is irreplaceable.

“When you read a book about how to fix your car, you understand intellectually how to do that, but when you’re actually fixing your car, the whole world opens up to you and you get that perspective. It’s the same with teaching. You can’t read about the questions that might come up during the course of a lesson, the questions that you never think of,” said Jones.

Resilience has been something that everyone has had to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone has had to adapt, sacrifice, and be patient, but the world will emerge from this challenge by rising to the difficulties, and never giving up.

“The students of Linganore are a very resilient group. Despite the challenges, and we know how great they are, they just persevere. They have really put in good effort, and it’s not easy for anybody, but they have risen to the challenge and ultimately, have made me rise with them,” said Jones.

Now that she has graduated from the program, Jones is looking for a full-time job close to her home in Frederick County.