In previous years, teachers have always been thrilled to see their students on the first day of school after a long summer break. They were always excited to see the students rushing in the doors with big, bright smiles, ready to start the new school year but this year is unlike previous years. This year, teachers return to school with an empty classroom, and a Google Meet filled with students, due to COVID-19. With all the new restrictions, our school board voted 8-1 to start the new school year with virtual learning.
While some teachers were fond of returning back to their classrooms, others were not. Many felt like they were still not safe in the building even under all the restrictions and without students in the building. Other teachers at Freedom have young children at home that need to be watched, in which they are fearful of leaving them under the care of others during this time.
Back in the spring, teachers were rushing to put together lessons in order to still teach their students lessons while being virtual. At first, they only thought they were going to prepare lessons for two weeks, but turns out they had to finish the last two months of school virtually. It was a struggle for many teachers to continue to keep their students motivated during this time, but it was also hard to make sure the work and lessons that were given were beneficial to the students’ learning. Many had to cut work short and had to spend even more time on certain topics due to the fact that the students were struggling with what they were being taught.
“We had a month to prepare and clear guidance on expectations. I am fairly competent with technology so getting up to speed with the resources has not been too challenging, but finding effective ways to engage students has been difficult,” technology teacher, Mr. Tom Hickey said.
Due to the continued rise in COVID-19 cases, teachers knew that this year was going to be looking a little different. With many months to prepare, teachers here at Freedom were excited to get back into work, but it was not as easy as it sounds. Going back to school virtually is a challenging task for all.
Mr. Craig Bohon, a Spanish teacher at both the high school and middle school, explained how he took a huge chunk out of his summer and devoted it towards re-creating lessons so they fit into a virtual learning world. As it was challenging, he said it has definitely paid off.
At the beginning of every school year, teachers’ first tasks before giving out any work or beginning lessons are to put names with faces and remember who is who, but this year is creating a bigger challenge for these teachers. Google Meets allow for the students to have their microphones and cameras turned off. Without hearing or seeing these individuals, these teachers are not having the chance to fully picture each one of their students.
“By far the hardest part has been establishing relationships with the students. After about two weeks of in person schooling you have an idea about students learning styles and personalities. In a virtual world they are flat icons on a computer screen and that creates challenges,” Hickey said.
Due to all the struggles right off the back, teachers are thrilled for this year and are looking forward to hopefully seeing their students in class very soon when the time comes. The hope is that all teachers and students can return to the classroom each day just like any “normal” day. Students as well as teaching are hoping for a decrease in Covid-19 cases so they can go back to school in comfort and with ease.