Salvatore Bonasia ‘22
As we enter our fourth week of the distance learning program, both teachers and students have been working restlessly to get their work done on time and adjust to their new daily schedules. It has been a challenge for all students, teachers, and faculty members to get things done and figure out this new way of communication so we don’t fall behind with the schedule for the school year.
Teachers, especially, have had it rough getting their lesson plans adjusted to their shortened 40 minute class times and controlling how their classes will go on for the day. According to some teachers, for instance, Mr. Dwyer, “I spent about 13 plus hours researching how to go in and teach my courses online to make it work as best as we can. I got a lot of help from other students, I got a lot of help from these websites that I had to go and stumbled upon that gave me step by step.” We see how teachers are rushing to respond to the sudden change since none of us were expecting the situation to erupt into what it is now so quickly.
Teachers have been struggling with deciphering the appropriate workload for students since the lack of their presence prevents them from seeing who’s struggling, or needs more time to fully complete and understand the given task at hand. The teachers also do worry that without the physical classroom setting and not having the ability to interact with their students face to face, the lessons being taught over a video chat may not be as effective to the students compared if they were back in the actual classroom.
Ms. Blandino says it perfectly, “With online learning, you can’t truly get a feel for that and it’s hard to tell if some kids just want an extension because they’re lazy or if they need it. It puts us (teachers) in a tough spot in trying to adjust and make everything work for not only themselves but for their students.” Teachers have been trying their best collectively to have their classes run smoothly and adjust the lesson so that the material could work for every student.
The lack of a classroom environment has been one of the most stressful parts of this program for them. Even us students know that if we were in a classroom, not only would we get a better grasp of the material, but the teacher would have an easier time teaching it to us. Mr. Dwyer told the Spectator, “today I was just trying to teach poetry and it’s really difficult, I’ve always taught with a board and with people being able to come up and write on the board, and the activeness because that’s the best way to learn something complicated like that. And I’ve got to get on my toes and find a different way. I’m prepared for it, but it’s mental jumping jacks.”
They have really pushed themselves to make this transition for us as smooth as could be. Ms. Blandino, to keep her students on track for the now postponed Regents, has found an online way to perform labs with her students with WebQuests, and this adjustment will count towards the required lab hours needed for her students to take the test.
Mr. Dwyer, on the other hand, has found a way to integrate group work and discussions with his students through Discord where he would split up the kids into different chat rooms to go talk to each other to come up with their answers. The platform has also helped him do more critical readings with them to not lose that comfortable in-class feel most teachers have been trying to bring into their online classes.
Teachers have also admitted to thinking this is a tolerable way of learning, but they do miss their in-school setting. According to Ms. Blandino, “although Google Hangouts does allow for interaction with students, it is nowhere near the same as being face to face with your class. It makes the teaching/learning experience more personable as opposed to sitting in front of a computer.” They believe we need that direct student-teacher interaction with each other, and they’re right.
This adjustment hasn’t been easy for any of us. What teachers are most worried about is if the students are really retaining the material being taught to us this way. They are trying to make it as comfortable and easy for us as possible to not add to the panic this pandemic has already brought to each of our homes.
There have been many challenges they’ve been faced with such as countering their shortened periods, making exams that will truly assess the student’s understanding of the work without the possibility of cheating, getting enough grades in, among other obstacles. Still, they are working towards overcoming these challenges even though it may take away their own time to do other things. They have been putting in their top effort for us to have a simple transition during this period of time and for whenever we get back to our old physical school environment.
In light of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the teachers have given their own opinions on it and how they believe we’ll go on with this online learning program. When Ms. Blandino was asked what she believes will happen to us in the next month, she says, “I’m sad to even say this but I don’t think we will be going back into the building for the rest of the school year. It’s heartbreaking to even think that…know I specifically miss all of my students and it’s really sad knowing I won’t be able to see some of my seniors have a proper send-off or have my freshmen have the look of elation knowing that they made it through their first year of high school.” She hopes she is wrong and that she’ll be able to spend the remainder of the school year with both her freshman and seniors, but overall is glad we’re safe at home and still on schedule getting things done.
Mr. Dwyer had also been asked about our return but had a slightly different opinion by saying, “we’re staying as long as we’re staying because we don’t know enough and we’re trying to be safe and sure, but it’s for the safety of all people.” He sees us returning on schedule and unless there is a very necessary reason that we must extend it, we will, but it seems unlikely. Teachers hope that they could return back to their classrooms with their students because as much as they’re working hard right now for us, they want what’s best for us and being in the classrooms helps both us learn, and them teach in the best way possible.