Transition to in-person teaching brings challenges for professors


Image of courtesy of Simmons University.

Anna Lacy, Contributing Writer

Professors at Simmons University are happy to be teaching in person, but they are experiencing challenges as they transition from remote teaching.

“There is this real challenge of not being able to see students’ faces,” said Rachel Gans-Boriskin, a Simmons communications professor, about what student and professor interactions are like now in-person with masks. “When I teach I rely on non-verbal cues like smiling and no one can see that.”

When Gans-Boriskin was told classes would be in-person after teaching on Zoom, she had some worry about COVID due to the rising cases of the Delta variant. According to an article by the CDC in July 2021, cases were rising again since January and data was indicating that the delta variant is more contagious than other variants even in some who are vaccinated.

Judith Aronson, a graphic design professor, said that being around a lot of people is very new.

Aronson said that the Simmons community expected coming back to campus would be the same as before the pandemic but the reality is very different. People got used to being online and need to adjust, Aronson said.

Another challenge is that some of the protocols have been unclear, said Aronson. Many professors and students are unsure where they can eat. Aronson said students have come to her expressing concerns about eating in common spaces due to the high amounts of people there.

Masato Aoki, an associate professor from the department of economics at Simmons, said he is seeing more and less of students at the same time. Professors are getting to know students in a new, different way.

“The protocol of social distancing means we have to be careful how we meet with students,” said Aoki. Interacting with and hearing group discussions among students was missed while teaching remotely, said Aoki.

In-person classes have brought back some of the enthusiasm in teaching, said Aronson and Gans-Boriskin.

“One of the things that I just absolutely adore, that I’d forgotten a little, is how much I love being up in front of the classroom and kind of the performative aspect of teaching,” said Gans-Boriskin. “No matter how much you do it on Zoom you’re just, you have to be a smaller personality on Zoom.”

Gans-Boriskin said that teaching in-person is a new normal and it’s important students and staff don’t forget about the pandemic. There has been a great deal of loss in and out of the classroom, said Gans-Boriskin.

Transitioning back to campus during a pandemic has left the door open to what Simmons University can do now and in the future for people who are more prone to health problems and what the right balance is for everyone, said Gans-Boriskin.