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Pandemic poses opportunities and challenges for educators

As an educator and expert in social and emotional learning, Dr. Eva Allen knows the pandemic has stressed schools, yet she’s also seen the opportunities it’s opened.

For classroom teachers, trying to engage and connect with students, remote learning has perhaps been the biggest challenge.

“We sometimes lack the personal connection to build relationships when we’re behind a screen,” she said. “In a classroom, we have the ability to connect, sense someone’s presence and capture a feeling and an energy. A virtual setting doesn’t lend itself to that.”

All that said, remote learning also has opened opportunities, particularly for professional development.

“With virtual presentations, you have the ability to reach masses, as opposed to any other (physical) setting,” she said, noting that they make learning opportunities more accessible to educators who otherwise might be constrained by distance or time.

There also can be some benefits for educators now teaching remotely, Allen added.

“From a teacher’s perspective, technology is the culture of this generation,” she said. Although no one doubts most students enjoy the social experience school usually offers, they also “are comfortable being on a screen.”

Being thrust into the virtual space also “forces people to think creatively and out-of-the box” about ways to engage students and present ideas, Allen said. “It forces us to grow as individuals and learn alongside the children in many ways. We become more compassionate with learners because we ourselves have been forced to learn at a very rapid pace.”