Digital divide

Student-teacher Tom Sheridan is teaching students for the first time over Zoom


After observing math teacher Laura Sands, student-teacher Tom Sheridan now teaches Algebra 1 and 2 classes over Zoom. ILLUSTRATION BY CECILIA APITZ

The pandemic has been particularly hard on teachers, who are forced to continuously rework their teaching plans amidst constant rescheduling and dashed hopes for being able to return to in-person learning. For student-teacher Tom Sheridan, however, the pandemic has actually made his job “easier” in some ways.

Sheridan is in the process of completing the Teacher Credential Program at CSU Long Beach. Having become a student-teacher under math teacher Laura Sands at the start of the semester, he’s learning the ropes of the various duties that come with the job.

“My first week, I observed her teaching. We touch base across the board on curriculum, attendance, grades and classroom management, and now I’m putting it into practice as I’ve temporarily taken over the classes as [her students’] main teacher,” he said.

Sheridan is currently teaching Algebra 1 and 2, and while he’s comfortable teaching those subjects, he’s willing to expand his horizons and teach other branches of math later in his career.

“I find Algebra very straightforward to teach, and since Precalculus builds on Algebra 2, those would probably be my top three to start, and then I would be interested in statistics, geometry and calculus to switch it up down the road,” he said.

Contrary to the many hurdles most students and teachers have been experiencing as a result of the pandemic, Sheridan actually found distance learning made his transition to full-time teaching easier than if it’d been in person, as it makes it easier for him to focus on helping his students, who are all in one place thanks to the pandemic.

“Since this is my first year as a student-teacher, I think it is a good way to transition into teaching. I can focus more on the needs of my students, and I think it would be more complex in person, which I’m really looking forward to,” he said. “Online, the students are separate. In class, they’re in proximity with each other, so there’s more to monitor in person.”

Not only does distance learning make keeping track of his students easier than in a normal classroom environment, but it also makes it easier for him to provide help for any students who might be struggling with the material.

“It takes some adjustment, but I think there are great opportunities to get help in this situation,” he said. “For example, with daily tutorials, you don’t have to travel anywhere; you just turn your computer back on and there’s extra help waiting for you, which I think is a great benefit to this setup.”

Unfortunately, that’s as far as his pandemic-induced work benefits seem to go. A common, but nevertheless impactful problem Sheridan inevitably came across as a result of distance learning was the inability to properly build relationships with his students, with whom he can only communicate from behind a screen. Despite that limitation, it won’t stop him from striving to become a competent, respectable teacher that his students can look up to.

“I’d like [my students] to see me as someone who really knows his math, can communicate it well and tries to give each student their own respect,” he said.

Sheridan will earn his credential to become a full-time teacher at the end of the year. Although the pandemic has made several aspects of his job easier and harder, he still plans on making the most of his time at Redondo Union.

“I’m really enjoying my time at RUHS so far, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the semester,” he said.