by Stan Bindell
After 23 years at Hopi High School this was my first year teaching at Mingus Union High in Cottonwood, and I had already faced the challenge of going from a Bureau of Indian Education school to a public school.
Adding to that, in the past I'd taught many forms of journalism, and now I was teaching digital film and incorporating broadcast news for the students who were willing to do the work.
Times had changed dramatically for me, but those challenges would be minimal compared with what came with the coronavirus. On March 6 we left for spring break, with no idea that we would not be going back. Any teaching for the rest of this year would be done online.
No one expected this might happen, so we had no training on how to teach from home until we were in this predicament, and that presented challenges for both teachers and students. Some teachers had used Google Classroom and Zoom previously, and were ahead of the game when we suddenly had to rely on them. Technology-challenged teachers like me were starting from behind the eight ball, and having to use tele-teaching to learn tele-teaching compounded my challenges. Thanks to my CTE director, Ralph Fobair, and my CTE department chair, Andy Hooten, I've had plenty of help to get me through.
During these times, teaching video, or any in-the-field-dominated class, is tough. Video involves filming either actors or interviewees. But keeping students safe during these times is paramount, so my students were unable to complete video projects for the rest of the school year.
The sad part is that if the student doesn't have online access or a computer, they can't do any work online and are at a disadvantage. MUHS worked to address the needs of every student, putting lesson packets together for them to pick up, but under these conditions every student really needs a computer and broadband connection to keep up with peers and get the guidance they need.
Not knowing the schools would close physically when we returned from spring break meant reaching out to students through email and phones when necessary. It's always great to hear from the students, and many were happy to hear from me. An important part of being a teacher is interacting with students in person, especially when they are proud of themselves in showing they've learned something that you taught them.
Now we have to do that online, at least for awhile. "We're all in this together" isn't just a cliche, it's our new reality.
Stan Bindell's 20-year journalism career included eight years with the New Jersey Star-Ledger and eight as editor of the Navajo-Hopi Observer in Flagstaff. Last May the Arizona Interscholastic Press Association recognized Bindell with its Forest Martin Experienced Adviser of the Year Award.