Sit Down with Singh: Mr. Vickers

A series of candid discussions on distance learning

Gurdeep Singh, Editor

Everyone has been experiencing the transition from campus to distance learning in different ways. Throughout this continuing series, we will explore the dilemmas that both teachers and students have been encountering while teaching and learning in a virtual classroom and how they adapt to the many challenges they face. 

Brett Vickers, a sixth-year ELA teacher, is known by students to be very charismatic, and most students have a love-hate relationship with him. Regardless, he brings his personality to the classroom. It’s not hard to recognize Vickers, especially his choice of headgear. On top of his standard newsboy cap, he wears his  HyperX headset, complete with microphone. Even though his job is teaching, he loves to destroy people’s careers in online games like Call of Duty and Destiny. Vickers, like everyone, is experiencing his fair share of difficulties during this unprecedented time. It can be hard to imagine the number of difficulties faced by teachers. 

“There are too many difficulties to count,” Vickers said. “I have been struggling with apathetic students – students that keep their cameras off and microphones muted, students that face their cameras at the ceiling, students that are clearly playing video games or are fiddling with their phone during class.” 

Because he can’t manage his classroom the way he normally would, he has weathered more stress and tension than usual. “These are not difficulties that one can overcome,” Vickers said. “These are systemic difficulties that wear on the soul.” 

Aside from student behavior, Vickers has made adjustments concerning the amount of work assigned in his classes. “My students might not believe it,” he said, “but, yes, the pace of the class this year is slower than in years prior. We had to spend a LOT of time at the beginning of this year teaching students tech skills. Furthermore, there are less synchronous instructional minutes per week to actually teach new concepts.” 

One obstacle Vickers faces is technology, mainly the computer issues that students have. “I’d have to say that playing the role of (information tech director) has been difficult as a teacher during remote instruction,” he said. “It’s nearly impossible to help students with tech issues when the students themselves are unfamiliar with the basic functions of a computer.” 

Another hurdle teachers like Mr. Vickers have to get over is using Zoom effectively. When  asked if distance learning through Zoom is an effective alternative to in-person learning, his answer was revealing. 

“Ha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahaha.” 

Another big concern for Vickers is reopening schools because Covid-19 is increasing in states like California, and many consider it to be dangerous for teachers and students to return. 

“The health and safety of students and staff is a major concern,” Vickers said. “I also don’t see how we will be able to follow CDC guidelines without a robust plan in place that includes the enforcement of said policies. Beyond that, there will be a reckoning for students that have been doing little-to-no work since March 13. Students that have forgotten that there are consequences for errant behavior during class will struggle to find their footing.”

Considering all the difficulties brought by the pandemic, Vickers is as excited as ever to eventually return once it is deemed safe. “I miss class conversations and Socratic seminars.”

He also has other, more maniacal reasons to return to in-person learning, too.

“It’s also been over seven months since I have confiscated someone’s cell phone,” Vickers said, “and I think I am suffering from withdrawals.”