Comic: How one math teacher broke through to her virtual students

It's been a year since teachers were handed an unprecedented request: educate students in entirely new ways amid the backdrop of a pandemic. In this comic series, we'll illustrate one teacher's story each week from now until the end of the school year.

Episode 1

Jessica Peacock — On what success has meant for her while teaching virtually during the pandemic. Sixth-grade math, Raleigh, N.C.

So, I am kind of a comedian. I'm a fun teacher. I get a lot of energy from the crowd. This has been rough.
LA Johnson | NPR
The kids weren't turning on their cameras, their mics. Forty or so students, but there was just ... nothing. Little boxes with their names in them.
LA Johnson | NPR
So it had been about nine weeks of this, and I was mentally, physically and emotionally broken. I was tired — a different type of tired — at the end of the day.
LA Johnson | NPR
I went to Chick-fil-A with another teacher, and we just ... cried in the parking lot.
LA Johnson | NPR
And so I broke down in front of the kids — these sixth-graders I had never met, some of them I had never even heard their voices — and I said, "You know, y'all, it really feels like I'm teaching in an aquarium!"
LA Johnson | NPR
"It's like, you can look at the fish, you can talk to them, but they're just gonna do what they do!"
LA Johnson | NPR
And as soon as I said that, it was — Pop! Pop! Pop! The cameras started turning on. And they were giggling. And I'm like ... "Yes! Yes! Thank you! I didn't know what you looked like! Did you have glasses? Or purple hair?!"
LA Johnson | NPR
So I started thinking of other ways to engage the kids. I had them start sharing their screens, and that changed everything. By the end of the next class, everyone was talking and sharing their screens.
LA Johnson | NPR
So really it was me modeling that vulnerability that I usually don't have to when we're face-to-face.
LA Johnson | NPR
And now there are days where I hear from every student more than once. That is success to me. The End.
LA Johnson | NPR

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