Leslie Trail is a distance runner.
The experienced ones know how to pace themselves whether it's a marathon or a half-marathon. Whatever circumstances they face, they're going to finish.
Teaching is a lot like running long distances, especially during the 2020–2021 school year.
"You have to finish the race because the last thing you're going to do is not finish the race," said Trail, an English instructor at Eagleville School, "so you push through and I think that that's the way the school year is going to feel for us.
"Ultimately, teachers are (going to) power through and I think that as we power through," Trail continued, "that's where we're going to find ways to make ourselves more efficient."
Trail feels like "teaching is teaching" whether she's zooming with a distance learner or talking with a student who is physically in her classroom. Instruction is happening, it just looks different, according to Trail.
In fact, Trail, who is in her 14th year of teaching, has been using technology for the past 10 years and went paperless two years ago.
"I hate dealing with hardcopy papers," Trail said. "I'm much more organized on the computer."
Trail has seamlessly blended her students.
She has roughly 110 students this semester with 73 traditional and about 37 distance learners. Each class begins with Trail livestreaming so everyone can hear the same instructions — "I'm going to give my distance learners the same amount of attention my in-class learners are getting" — for that particular day's lesson.
"I think the more we, as teachers play with it," Trail said of the Zoom application she uses to connect students at home with those who are in the classroom, "the more comfortable we're going to get."
Success is still reliant on building relationships with students.
For many, that has been the biggest challenge with online students.
For Trail, figuring out where and how technology helps "does not replace teaching" done by teachers in the classroom. So, in addition to the live streaming, she has put in extra time recording personal videos that provide feedback regarding assignments for each of the distant learners.
Even after four weeks, Trail continues to "look for ways to do it differently" in an effort to enhance the experience for everyone involved.
"Did I ever imagine we would have a hybrid classroom," Trail concluded, "which is really what this is, where we have some students in-person and we have some students online, we have some students who are synchronous and some who are asynchronous, absolutely not.
"I knew that technology would keep growing but never did I envision this would be the way school would look."