It’s a few days before Thanksgiving break starts, students are excited to go home for break coming up, and teachers are planning their curricula for the following week. Suddenly, students and teachers of Woodland Regional High School received a notice on November 23: “All Region 16 schools will be moving to fully remote learning for the week of November 30th – December 4th and the week of January 4th – January 8th.” Imagine you were a teacher and you had to teach your students through a screen without any social contact. Well, this is exactly what Woodland Regional High School teachers had to experience the entire week after Thanksgiving break.
Not only have teachers been affected by the virtual closing, but also have had to shift their lessons and curricula as well. If being virtual wasn’t hard enough, the schedule included half days so teachers had less time to teach. Meghan Geary, English teacher, felt challenges with virtual learning.
“It’s hard to feel the energy when everybody is at home, separate, on their own computer. That energy is hard to replicate when we’re all at home and I know, for some students, it’s much more difficult for them to feel like they’re learning.”
Geary explained how her favorite days are when students talk to each other throughout the Meet even though they aren’t physically there. She missed the energy within her classes and the motivation students show all together in one classroom. There is no hugging, high fiving, or huddling up in groups to discuss like there normally would be.
Although there are many difficulties, Geary’s experience and troubles may not be as bad as a science or math teacher’s.
“I think that the full remote, the digital teaching, for an English or Humanities class is easier to translate than perhaps a science class that really requires a hands on experiential situation,” claims Geary.
Science and math classes definitely require more of a hands on type of learning that is hard to replicate while in a virtual environment. Science classes consist of labs and visual learning that cannot be done while completely at home. Hybrid learning allowed half the classes to conduct a lab one day but unfortunately this was not an option with virtual learning. Lisa Croce, science teacher, missed the ability to interact with her students.
“The inability to work with labs the way we want to is a problem. One of the interactive problems is that if students aren’t physically with you, they can’t always articulate what they don’t understand. You can’t walk up to them and say, ‘show me what you mean’.”
She also is concerned with the problem of time limit in each of her classes.
“I’m always worried about time; we are dealing with 50-minute classes for the virtual days. I want to make sure that what we are doing is interesting and interests the students,” said Croce. “Sometimes that is tough to pull it together and make sure that the lesson is manageable for the group you’ve designed it for.”
Science doesn’t only have the issue with virtual learning, so does math. Many students need to be in the classroom to learn math topics properly and this may be hard for teachers to help. Math teachers need to be able to set up a screen in front of a board… at home. Teaching math does not come easy while at home full time. James Belinsky, a math teacher at Woodland, faces troubles with interacting with his students.
“As a teacher I feel that not being able to see students’ faces and reactions makes it very difficult to make sure that they understand the material and are ready to move forward.”
Belinsky believes the biggest challenge is trying to get all the material in one spot for students to be able to access online.
“[Virtual learning] affects how topics are presented and how students will complete their assignments,” said Belinsky.
Overall each teacher, no matter what department they are in, has troubles with full virtual learning but manages to pull through. Although there’s multiple challenges with online learning, there are many positives, believe it or not. Geary believes going virtual is the best way to keep everyone safe.
“I think the pro is that it’s a proactive move to lessen the potential for the spread of COVID. It’s a strategic approach that I think the region is taking and I think it’s really smart, as opposed to just closing for the entire month of December.”
The week-long closure after Thanksgiving break had its positives because it allowed anyone who traveled to stay home and “quarantine”, but it also allowed students to come back and learn in their usual environment. Croce feels the same about the virtual closure.
“The pros are the layer protection that you feel when you’re in your home environment. Just the fact that we have the capability to [virtually learn] because the world is uncertain right now, and we can try to move everyone’s maturity and thinking and academic responsibility forward with distance learning.”
Even with this pandemic going on, everyone tried to find the positives within the challenges. Teachers are doing their absolute best to give students the education they deserve while helping them adapt to this odd environment. Just remembering each person is trying their best can really make a difference.