Of all the ways to begin a teaching career, Marion County Middle School teacher Caroline Cobb didn’t expect it to involve a school year spent teaching online as much as in-person. But despite this unorthodox school year, Cobb said she’s learned to adapt in large part thanks to the support she’s received from her co-workers.

“At first I was really stressed. I’m a new teacher and how am I going to make connections with kids I’ve never met before?” Cobb said. “So, it was stressful but luckily I’ve had other teachers here to support me. Kim Wright and Kelly Allen have been my rocks. They’ve helped me feel not nearly as stressed as I could have been [...] They really highlighted what I needed to be doing and what programs are available.”

Cobb, who teaches both English language arts and social studies, added: “It’s definitely being a team effort working with other ELA and social studies teachers to come up with some kind of plan to meet the students’ needs [...] I feel like I got more support because of the circumstances.”

And while the first year of teaching for any teacher is a learning experience, that has especially been the case during this year.

“It was a big learning curve at first,” Cobb admitted, noting that she was only familiar with a few of the online resources she’s used this school year. “Luckily I’ve got past that learning curve.”  

Now, Cobb sounds like an old pro while naming the online resources she uses with her students: Pear Deck, Flocabulary, Kahoot.

“There’s just so many we use on a daily basis,” she said. “Peardeck is really useful. I can see if they’re following along on the slideshow. It’s a good way to make kids accountable.”

She’s also found ways to replicate small group instruction in an online format by putting students in video chat breakout rooms.

“It gives us that small group feel -- it’s been really successful with my students,” Cobb said. “They feel more comfortable in that small group environment.”

However, that’s not to say Cobb isn’t looking forward to her students returning to the classroom. Earlier in the year, when MCPS was able to offer in-person learning, Cobb said she “absolutely loved it,” adding: “It’s easier to connect with the kids.”

That’s why she’s looking forward to when MCPS can return to some form of In-Person learning. 

“I really just want to connect with the kids,” she said. “I’m excited to get back and do some of those fun hands-on projects.”

Despite the obstacles involved with Distance-Learning, Cobb says that her students have shown the ability to adapt to circumstances.

“Some of my students have really stepped up -- they’ll check IC (Infinite Campus), they’ll see about missing work,” Cobb said, noting that she’s received emails from students checking on assignments and grades. “They want that teacher feedback -- they really do.”

Cobb also said she recognizes that parents want that feedback as well, especially given the unusual dynamics of this school year.

“We’re all doing our best and we understand it’s a lot of responsibility for parents,” she said. “Communication is key.”