Richard Barclay: New teacher, new challenges

Barclay, AP European History and US History teacher, spends his first year at RUHS online

Barclay+is+a+new+teacher+at+RUHS%2C+though+he+has+been+teaching+history+for+10+years.+PHOTO+FROM+RUHS+WEBSITE

Barclay is a new teacher at RUHS, though he has been teaching history for 10 years. PHOTO FROM RUHS WEBSITE

Richard Barclay joined RUHS staff at the beginning of this school year to teach AP European History and 11th grade U.S. History. While this isn’t his first time teaching, it is his first time teaching distance learning, as it is with most teachers this year. 

“When you’re on campus, you get to work with your department. The collaboration as teachers has been so much more difficult, and I really miss that idea where we stay after school and talk about where students are at and ideas for classes,” Barclay said. “We’re kind of all siloed in our own island. What I try to do is I go onto campus like once or twice a week to meet with other teachers just so we’re always collaborating.”

While communication between teachers seems to have a feasible fix, understanding students is a much more daunting task.

“I keep wondering, ‘How do I connect with students?’ It’s so easy for students to fall through the cracks and go to Zoom class, turn their camera off and disappear,” Barclay said. “I wish there was a way where we can connect. I don’t know if I have a solution yet, but we’re at the end of the semester, and I feel like there’s those students who are just, ‘Oh no, I’m really behind and there’s only two weeks left.”

Although Barclay does realize that some of his students are struggling with distance learning, teaching over Zoom makes assessing exactly what they are struggling with difficult.

“With Zoom, it feels very clinical where you’re going through piece by piece, checkpoint by checkpoint, and you don’t really know where people are at,” Barclay said. “It’s harder to adjust, so that’s been a really eye-opening experience as a teacher to realize how much I need the students with me to work together toward meeting the learning goals.”

Although communication between teachers and students has become more difficult, there are some benefits to distance learning, according to Barclay. For example, he found himself having more time to organize his lessons and think his classes through beforehand. 

“I have more time to plan. If I have more time to revise lesson plans, I can adapt. It’s because we’re not doing the eight to three [schedule]. After school when it’s traditional learning, you come home from your club or wherever and you’re just like, ‘I’m mentally done; I can’t do anything else.’ Now once we get done, I’m thinking about how to improve lessons,” Barclay said. 

Adjusting to a new school and a new online teaching format is something that has taken a lot of time and patience, according to Barclay, but there are silver linings to keep in mind.

“I do prefer traditional learning. But you know what, there’s been a lot that I’ve learned through online that I want to use in my regular classroom,” Barclay said. “I feel like there’s some benefit to this, that we need to find a healthy balance of both worlds.”