The right formula: IA science teacher was quick to adapt to virtual classes

By BRYAN DAVIS PUBLISHER,

Naomi Makamson has never enjoyed being recorded.

The Indianola Academy high school science teacher has performed on stage multiple times, but there’s something about appearing on video that has always made her feel uneasy, she told The E-T in an interview this week.

For someone who gets butterflies while in front of the camera, Makamson excelled at teaching her pupils, mostly by way of Zoom after spring break.

“Zoom is something that made me nervous at first,” Makamson admits. “I do not like to see myself or hear myself on a recording, and boy, I had to get over that quickly.”

In fact, Makamson was the first of the IA high school teachers to utilize Zoom for her biology and chemistry classes.

While the students were on the other side of the monitor, Makamson did teach to an audience her first day, even if she did not know it at first.

“During the first Zoom, I was teaching my heart out on the Smartboard, while trying to maneuver the computer, textbook, notes and Smartboard, when I heard whispering,” she said. “I had the feeling that someone was looking over my shoulder, so I turned around to see four other teachers standing in the hallway, looking through the small glass of my door, watching me. They were interested in how it was going and how things would go as I was nervous.”

It was a rough go for everyone at first, Makamson said, but over the course of the next few weeks, the teachers and the students settled into the reality that they would be teaching and learning from a distance the rest of the year.

“One of my main goals was to comfort them and encourage them and say ‘It’s fine. Don’t panic. We’re going to take care of you,’” Makamson said. “I spent a lot of time trying to be the encourager at first.”

Makamson said she continued to go to the school on a daily basis, because that was where she was comfortable teaching.

“I am so very thankful that IA wasn’t a school that locked its doors and wouldn’t allow us to continue to use our school resources,” she said. “I came to school to use my Smartboard and I felt more comfortable since my classroom is my comfort zone, and I knew that if I was comfortable, that it would help my students.”

As Makamson and her students became more used to the environment, things got easier. It was nothing like having classroom interaction, but things did get easier.

Throughout the last several weeks of school, Makamson did labs through Zoom, where her biology students got to experience a virtual cat dissection.

“I had labs online that students were to watch and answer questions about and write lab reports for,” she said. “I did virtual cat dissections with my Biology III class and taught titration via Zoom with my Honors Chemistry II. They wrote up their lab reports and then I gave them sample data that they were to use to complete their data and calculations.”

Makamson said that a few of her seniors are even planning to come back to the school this summer to perform labs so that they’ll feel more comfortable with the hands-on when they go to college in the fall.

“They have a great background but want the confidence since they will have been out of the lab classroom six months when they start fall courses,” she said.

Aside from the scientific knowledge they accumulated, Makamson said several students told her that they became better organized through the experience of distance learning, while others became more accustomed to checking emails on a regular basis.

She said that many students would also send her notes, thanking her for her efforts and encouraging her when she would be frustrated or down about the situation.

“They were encouraging to us,” Makamson said of her students. “Technology has never been my strong point…I would be doing something and it wouldn’t let me write on (the Smartboard) or something, and I would get frustrated, and the kids would send me a little note saying ‘thank you for all you’ve done. You having faith in us has made us have faith in ourselves.’ Those little notes meant more to us than they’ll ever know.”

Makamson said that like the seniors, many teachers like herself feel like they did not get closure at the end of the year.

“I didn’t get my last hug before my seniors graduated and didn’t get to see the juniors as they walked into my room one last time before they were officially seniors,” she said.

Makamson has learned new skills, many she plans to carry over even if classes resume as normal in the fall, but she said she is ready for the in-person nature of classroom teaching to return.

“I have learned so much about myself during the pandemic,” she said. “I know how much I love routine and schedule. Teachers live by a schedule. I love and miss my kids and IA family even more than I expected. I appreciate the little things even more and understand that there are so many reasons teachers are teachers. The personal rewards outweigh any monetary rewards.”

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