This blog post was written by guest contributor Nicole Marte.

Digital learning. Google Meet. Zoom. Essential. Uncertain times.

If I’m honest, I’d be okay if I didn’t hear these words again for a while.

Teaching, in general, is difficult. Add in being unable to be in your classroom, not seeing your students face-to-face, transferring all your lessons to digital formats, learning new digital resources, and reaching out to students individually to see if they have internet access, it’s not what teachers expected at all. It’s not what anyone expected. Can I confess something? This whole digital learning experience was just as hard for teachers as it was for students. We probably disliked it just as much as the students. Maybe more. This isn’t what we signed up for, and I want to thank all the parents who offered us support instead of criticism during this time. Teachers are humans too, and we were experiencing the pandemic just like the rest of the world.

Here are some things I learned during digital learning:

1. I was ungrateful.

I took my students, my classroom, and nearly everything that was taken away during digital learning for granted. I felt like I was complaining a lot this year prior to the pandemic, and the very things I was complaining about are what I missed most when they were taken from me. I missed the ability to walk into my classroom every day. I missed being able to see my students and joke and laugh with them every day. I missed being able to see my teammates every day. I missed being a teacher in the traditional sense. Yes, I was still a teacher, but it didn’t feel the same. At the end of the year, we took a class photo on Google Meet, and I’m looking forward to the day I can see it hanging on my wall in my room. I hope it serves as a reminder to be thankful for what’s in front of me.

2. I can do hard things.

This is one of those cliché sayings you’ll find on a picture or a coffee mug. To be honest, I’d probably make a joke about it and laugh as I passed by it in the store, but here I am saying that same cheesy saying. Online teaching was hard for me, not so much in the sense of producing the work, but in the sense of my identity. Let me explain.

I found most of my identity in teaching. I spent most of my time in my classroom teaching my students. When that was quickly ripped away from me, it left me longing for that sense of purpose. Yes, I realize that a career can’t define someone, and I find my ultimate purpose in my faith, but teaching is a huge part of who I am.

I was left wondering if I did enough for my students, if they would remember me, and if I showed them enough kindness and grace while we were together. My patience is not always my virtue. I started having doubts, but I had to quickly check myself. If you’re in the same boat as me, you are enough. We got through it. We did it.

3. Teaching through technology is not the same as classroom teaching.

I tried to search for engaging sites and activities. There are a lot of great resources out there, but nothing even came close to being in my classroom. The digital resources didn’t allow me to joke with my students. They didn’t allow me to be interrupted every five minutes. I never thought I would miss that. They took away the magic that happened face-to-face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful for technology and what it provides for us. I’m privileged to even have this problem, but this teacher just really missed her students.

Digital learning was a wild ride, and I’m longing for the day I can be back in my classroom. There are a lot of unknowns. Will we have to start with digital learning next year? What will things look like when we return to our classroom? Will we have smaller class sizes? Will we be safe? There are so many questions and not a lot of answers. For now, I’ll be enjoying my summer and dreaming of what’s to come.

While digital learning isn’t a replacement for being in the classroom, it does offer a uniquely convenient, flexible way to further your education. At UWA Online, we offer fully online education degrees at various levels and in a wide array of specialties. Find out how we can help you advance your teaching career.

Nicole Marte is a sixth-grade science teacher based in Atlanta, Georgia. You can follow her on Instagram or on her website.