Online School Interview: Amy Knox


Emory Pittman, Print Editor

This week, for the final edition of the Eagle Examiner this school year, our Online School Interview focuses on Ms. Knox, the head of the upper school English department!



  • How many classes do you teach per day?


It varies by day of the week. I see my sophomores three times a week so that they have enough time to work on research between classes. I think it would be really easy for us as teachers to overload students with classes and assignments, so I’m trying to keep in mind that even though we have “extra time,” we also need more time to address our mental health and support others during this period of upheaval. I’m not as generous with my seniors. Selfishly, I make them come hang out with me four days a week because I’m not ready to give them up!



  • How have you adapted to online classes?


Honestly, I’m not so sure that I *have* adapted. I present material pretty much in the same way I always have just with my students watching and listening on Zoom instead, which we also use to meet individually when students need help. A couple of my classes this year are kind of shy, and it’s even harder to get them to answer questions online. I think that when you’re in a real classroom, you feel like you’re speaking only to the teacher, but when your face is plastered across every student’s computer screen, the spotlight is right on you, and many students find that intimidating. I can’t wait to get back into the classroom again, but I think that I will keep some of the resources I’ve depended on during the stay-at-home order—especially Google Docs. I’ve always used it some, but I’ve historically relied much more on paper. I think that’s going to change, though, which is great for the school’s budget and our environment. The only part of teaching from home that I’ll truly miss is having my teaching assistant (Cricket) to “help” every day.



  • With your extra free time in quarantine, have you picked up any new hobbies?


I don’t think I would say I’ve had a lot of extra time. Every little thing takes longer in this new normal. For instance, I have to set up times via email to meet with kids online to discuss things when I’d ordinarily just find them in FLEX and do a quick, 2-minute explanation without any prearrangement. And housework… I have spent so much more time doing laundry and dishes! I guess it’s all the eating at home and the fact I’ve made it a point to set aside time to go outside each day. I walk around the neighborhood and wave at residents, see people’s pets, notice who’s planted new flowers… I’m also riding my bike every couple of days. I guess you’d call that a new hobby; I was obsessed with biking as a teenager but hadn’t ridden regularly in more than a dozen years. It’s nice to have that wind in your face that gives a sense of freedom despite being somewhat on lockdown. More gardening and more exercise = more laundry.  🙁



  • What movie/TV streaming service do you use to fill your free time, and what have you been watching?


I’m rewatching the old seasons of Outlander on Starz so that I can be fully prepared to watch the new one that’s currently airing. I was supposed to take a handful of students to Ireland and Scotland this summer, but since that likely won’t happen, Outlander is the best I’ve got.



  • Have you ever been exposed to online learning before?


Only from the student side of things. I remember having college classes that required us to post to online message boards. Gosh, that makes me sound so old, but it was only the early 2000s! A ton of my research, though–especially in grad school–was done online.



  • What part of your house do you teach your classes from?


I have converted my kitchen table into my workspace. I have a room that’s technically my office, but it’s mostly just where I keep my books and not set up for long-term use. Besides, I have my favorite rosebush outside the dining area window, and it makes me happy to look at the variegated coral blooms it’s covered with right now.



  • How has it affected your daily routine?


Although I would go back to traditional teaching in a heartbeat, I do appreciate the fact that I’m spending more time in my own house. I’ve always been so bad about staying at school late (like until dinnertime) because I hate leaving campus with work that’s not done, but that’s literally impossible now! I also get to sleep in a bit, which is fabulous since I’ve never been a morning person.



  • Has this interfered with your daily life outside of the classroom?


“Interfered” isn’t a word I would use. Being able to keep teaching—even if it is from home and not as lively—has been a blessing during this time. It keeps me away from the news and social media most of the day (and you know there’s so much negativity in those outlets right now). It gives me a sense of purpose and lets me feel like I’m contributing in some small way to keeping the world turning even when it feels like it’s stopped.



  • How has this altered your relationship with your students?


Teaching online has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, I don’t feel as close to some of my students—especially the ones I’m not currently teaching in an academic class–because I simply don’t see them. I miss getting together with my advisory group, hearing “Hey, Ms. Knox!” as I walk down the hall, and chatting with the juniors during FLEX about prom. I guess teaching online narrows our world in that way: we only see the people we have to in order for academic learning to happen, and I worry we’re missing out on so many of the other lessons we pick up at school. Learning doesn’t happen just in the classroom! On the other hand, it’s been awesome to get little glimpses into my students’ lives: I see how they’ve decorated their rooms and meet their pets. More than that, I think that teachers and students going through this crisis together are going to be forever bonded. Our collective experience has been so unique (and I pray it stays “unique” as in a once-in-a-lifetime experience), and there’s something unifying about charting these choppy waters together.



  • What would you change about online teaching if you could?


I would love to find a way to make it feel more personal and casual. You’d think online lessons would be less formal, but there’s a stilted feeling to them I don’t like. And I miss the physicality of teaching in a classroom where I have props stashed away (fake swords, a bow and arrow, plastic eggs, a deck of cards, a lightsaber—all very useful!). I also have no qualms about acting things out and making a fool of myself if it helps me to illustrate what’s going on in what we’re reading, but it’s tough to capture that in the narrow frame of a laptop camera.



  • Any final thoughts?


I often say that I started teaching because I love my subject but have stayed in it because I love my kids—and this time at home has shown me how very true that is. It turns out that I’m more social and extroverted than I ever realized, and there’s definitely a void that only “real” interactions with my students can fill.