"New school" creates new challenges
April 15, 2020
CLOVIS - Augustine Martinez never thought he would be teaching from long distance when he entered the profession.
To be fair, there was no Skype, no Zoom, no Google Classroom, when Martinez became a teacher 35 years ago.
Now there are all of those online forms of communication, along with a desperate need for them.
COVID-19 has forced schools to close throughout the country. Here in New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered that the schools remain closed for the rest of the academic year, as the need for social distancing continues.
So Martinez, who teaches video production and oversees the school newspaper and yearbook at Clovis High, had to kick it new school. He's taught at Stanford, at a community college, at private and public high schools, over a career that began when Ronald Reagan was in the White House.
Never before last Wednesday, though, had Martinez been an online instructor.
New school indeed.
"I'll have to adapt some more. We're all adapting, we're all learning," Martinez said. "We were told, 'Turn your class into something very simple; do not give them the work you would give them live. It would be too much.' Remember they have seven classes; I have six, but they have seven classes. So we were told, 'Don't overload them.'"
The challenge is to not do that, while still trying to give the students some kind of quality education via their computers.
"I don't want to say dumb down, but they just want us to get to the essence," Martinez said. "All you have time for is the essence. They have seven classes, and each teacher wants to give them the essence."
The new way of teaching made essential by the coronavirus is just days old. But so far, educators like Martinez are getting it done.
"It's been exciting for me and my kids," Martinez said. "I would say I've got a 90 percent participation rate. I had simple assignments; they've started doing them."
Martinez's real-life story arc has come a long way from when he taught English in the prestigious classrooms of Stanford. He was also a doctoral candidate who actually finished all the work he needed for his PhD, but decided on a somewhat different path.
"I wanted to continue teaching," he said. "I thought that teaching was a much better career than becoming an academic."
So Martinez next taught at a community college in northern California. "The community colleges in California are very open to teaching," he said. "You don't have to write books."
Martinez's career eventually took him to Albuquerque, where he taught English, history, newspaper and yearbook at St. Pius X and Sandia High Schools. He is now wrapping up his sixth year teaching at Clovis.
Martinez has noticed the differences with teaching high school as opposed to college students.
"College kids ... they're well-behaved," Martinez said. "But they've already decided what they're going to do with their lives. In high school you influence them in a much more comprehensive way. ... You can shape them."
Martinez has been molding minds for a while now. But never did he think that his sixth year at Clovis High would end in the middle of a pandemic. And yet here he - and everyone else - is, in the thick of probably the most historic times of all our lives.
Martinez is coping, but says the coronavirus might have a more lasting effect on his field than perhaps some realize.
"Really talented people will leave the profession," Martinez said. "That's going to be the dilemma for worldwide education. ... If we all become a distance-learning metaphor it's going to be hard. ... We can adapt, I can adapt, but I know a lot of my students are going to struggle because they don't learn that way. ... I can learn a new song here, I can learn a new gig, but I look forward to returning to my classroom. All of my colleagues are. It's what we know, it's how we're wired. We're not wired to look at screens all day."