Raised in Virginia and now residing in Connecticut, Suzanne Bell is no stranger to remote teaching. An expert in the sciences, Suzanne provides tutoring for biology, AP biology, chemistry, SAT II and other standardized exams.
Well-versed in applications like Zoom and Skype before COVID-19, Suzanne shares how she works during the pandemic. She also discusses how it has affected her students, her tutoring business, and her family. Thank you, Suzanne, for chatting with us!
Unlike many other educators, Suzanne Bell was well-versed in remote learning prior to COVID-19. She has taught biology to high school students for many years and, prior to the pandemic, Suzanne conducted 50% to 70% of her teaching sessions virtually.
During COVID, the College Board changed the AP biology exam format to meet the needs of students by reducing the material covered on the exam. Suzanne says, “A lot of my AP biology students actually didn’t need as much help anymore.” From March onward, Bell’s students were no longer learning new material and, consequently, the demand for tutoring decreased. Many of Suzanne’s students were already doing well in their classes and closing the schools gave them “from March to mid May to prepare for the exam with their own teachers.”
Suzanne saw her business quickly shift as a result. A few students scheduled review sessions near exam time. Suzanne says, “I picked up some new students that were having a hard time adjusting and preparing and some who fell behind for medical reasons.” While Bell didn’t notice changes in her students’ well-being, some students were unable to handle full-time biology instruction alongside their other classes. Consequently, Suzanne reached out to parents to suggest the student take a break or slow down.
Suzanne Shares Her Remote Teaching Advice
Suzanne’s advice to teachers new to remote teaching is to look into screen sharing and note sharing functions. “I use a virtual whiteboard frequently and a separate tablet. I can write on the tablet and it will appear on the virtual whiteboard. The student can screenshot and save to their notes. I’ve been using the tablet forever.”
COVID lockdown affected Suzanne in more ways than her tutoring business. The pandemic left her two children, 15 and 11, without their typical routine and her husband without an office. Prior to COVID-19, Bell had her own home office, but with her husband also working from home, she moved upstairs to her bedroom. When she needs to be on the phone or use her tablet, they’ll switch places. With her children, Suzanne finds that the lack of structure has made privacy a little challenging. “They’ve become a little loosy-goosy about it. They feel like they can bother me but not Ryan, my husband.”
Above all, Suzanne enjoyed the perks of lockdown, namely more family time. With everyone at home together, Suzanne has more time to cook, take walks, and spend time with her children, husband, and dog.