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Faculty Spotlight: Jo Shieh

By marketing and communications
Lower School educator Ms. Shieh builds relationships with her students based on trust—in person and now virtually.
Growing up in Singapore, school for Josephine “Jo” Shieh consisted of more than 40 children per class and little opportunity to build personal connections with her teachers. Now, over 15 years into her career as a teacher (three years at LJCDS), Ms. Shieh is committed to giving her students the kind of student-teacher relationship she never had. “I believe in relationships first,” says Ms. Shieh. “Once you have a relationship built on trust, once the students know that you’ve got their backs—once you’ve built a sense of community—you have a great foundation for learning.”  

At no time is this trust-based relationship more critical than in the midst of a global pandemic. Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down, but for children, so much extra care and consideration are required. For Ms. Shieh, a priority for e-learning has been to recreate the classroom dynamic online as much as she can and to give the students a sense of normalcy and ownership of that virtual classroom. 

“With e-learning, I try to keep the same structure and goals as I have for the classroom but tweak it a bit for the online platform,” she shares. “I log in about 15 minutes before class is set to start. The kids come on, and we start to chat about their days, the little joys in their lives, even play some games. To me, it’s important to encourage these kinds of moments, to let the kids feel like this is still their classroom, not just a technology platform managed by me.” 

The key is helping the students learn the proper etiquette for their new learning vehicle. “I’ve taught them how your behavior online should be the same as your behavior in the physical classroom,” explains Ms. Shieh. “You’ve got to have the same respect for people’s work and words.” 

A challenge for Ms. Shieh’s fourth-graders is their lack of experience with independent learning and time management. The virtual space has provided an opportunity to help her students learn those important life skills. “The students have half an hour with me during a lesson, then 45 minutes where they are on their own,” she shares. “Sometimes we talk about prioritizing and how best to schedule their time. I’ve said to my kids, overnight you’ve become like college students. You need to log in at a certain time. You need to soak in as much as you can and ask questions. They have to be proactive and log back on if they need to talk to me and ask for help.” 

Despite these challenges, the e-learning experience has been a fulfilling one for Ms. Shieh. “It’s great because it’s a whole different learning medium for the students to experience. In everything we do in life, there’s always learning, and it’s not always with a teacher,” she says. “And I am so thankful that I get to see the kids’ faces each day, see them still smiling and happy. Their personalities are still there. I hope our time together gives the kids a sense of stability and normalcy, but it also gives that to me. It’s a two-way street. I am thankful we’re all in it together.”

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