Editor’s Note: In 1988, a teacher most commonly had 15 years of experience. In recent years, that number is closer to just three years leading a classroom. The “On Teaching” series focuses on the wisdom of veteran teachers.
We are in the midst of the most sweeping education experiment in history. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the majority of the U.S.’s 3.6 million educators to find ways to teach without what most of them consider the core part of their craft—the daily face-to-face interactions that help them elicit a child’s burning desire to investigate something; detect confusion or a lack of engagement; and find the right approach, based on a student’s body language and participation in the classroom, to help students work through their challenges.
The good news is that this is happening at the end of the school year, after teachers have had opportunities to build relationships with their students. And in the past few decades, many educators have been experimenting with some promising technology-enabled approaches, sometimes called “hybrid,” or “personalized learning” models—essentially, a mix of in-person and online learning.
Renee Moore is one of them. An English teacher of 30 years, she has been honored with the Mississippi Teacher of the Year Award and the prestigious Milken Educator Award, among others. Moore has been incorporating online teaching in her classrooms in the Mississippi Delta for more than two decades—first as a high-school teacher in predominantly black schools, from 1990 to 2005, and, since then, as an instructor at the Mississippi Delta Community College, where she teaches high-school and college students, as well as working adults. During our conversation last week, which has been edited for length and clarity, I asked Moore to reflect on some of the most important lessons she learned about teaching reading and writing online.