Changing the lesson plan: A Pittsburgh teacher looks back at the year of teaching online

A great lesson starts off with a plan — a sequence of steps methodically followed and strategically simulated with an end goal in mind.

Sometimes, these lessons are  nationally mandated. Other times, they’re crafted by an academic coach or dictated by district curriculum.In my opinion, as an 11th- and 12th-grade U.S. history and social justice teacher at Pittsburgh Westinghouse, the classroom teachers are best suited to create such plans for the children that sit in front of them. They — we — can tailor to our students’ specific learning styles and needs.

But this past year, every educator has been in a constant state of monitoring and adjusting their plans, dealing with the separation anxiety that comes from being away from the students they love while finding their way toward a future that, at times, may seem a bit out of focus.

On March 13, 2020,, we found ourselves hustling out of the building, afraid of something we didn’t know or fully understand.

Since then, much of the discussion has surrounded when exactly we’d get back in the buildings. Throughout the nation, school boards, unions, politicians and parents have postured, pointed fingers and made accusations of one group or the other. Everyone has wanted to blame the other as to why schools could or couldn’t reopen sooner and why students were missing out on their traditional education.

You could point to transportation shortages, the vaccine rollout, safety concerns, the federal, state or local governments. No one knew exactly what to do, and no plan would ever be perfect. That said, the most immediate need was health and safety.

When it came to educating in person, no plan could ever guarantee 100% safety for when we returned. There were no easy answers, yet this was a mandated test we all had to take.  

Sean Means, a history teacher at Westinghouse Academy 6-12, photographed outside his Shadyside apartment on March 5. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)


Changing the lesson plan: A Pittsburgh teacher looks back at the year of teaching online


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