Staff Photo - Maia Siden
English teacher Katherine Ash teaches a class on May 6. Ash recently returned to in-classroom teaching after teaching from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A number of teachers required accommodations to teach remotely during the pandemic, which led to unique challenges. Many are returning soon as they become vaccinated and their health risks diminish.
Most stayed home for health issues of themselves or someone in their family. For most teachers, this caused struggle and a lot of disconnect from their students.
“It’s a really weird feeling to have a class full of students but you don’t know what anybody looks like,” English teacher Katherine Ash said.
Since students can choose to turn their camera on or off, teachers said they began to recognize a student by their circular profile picture. Without this face-to-face connection, there are clear changes to the teacher-student relationship. Ash stated that she feels students don’t reach out as much as they would in the classroom because they aren't able to just raise their hand and ask a question. She has found the best solutions she can to this particular challenge.
“I have been using a breakout room so I can meet students one on one. Oftentimes they have their cameras on in the breakout rooms and office hours as well,” Ash said. “These have been a really great way to make connections.”
Some students with remote teachers said they have found office hours invaluable to get help.
“When I joined my teacher’s office hours, she was really able to help me understand the concepts she covered during class,” freshman Lily Marchetti said. “It was way more personal than if it were a full class, and I really appreciate that.”
While connecting to students has been an issue some teachers have found new ways to present information. Teachers have learned new platforms such as Zoom and Nearpod. These have become a staple for many teachers at home. Zoom allows teachers to video call with their students from the class or their home. Nearpod is used to create online lessons for students, that are controlled by the teacher so everyone is going through the lesson at the same pace.
”I think that Nearpod is a very valuable tool since my teacher is online, it really helped lay out the lesson we were learning,” freshman Annabel Zuba said. “It felt like we were all in a class working off a PowerPoint together.”
Learning new technology can be seen as a benefit of remote learning. Social Studies teacher Wendy Bergeron has been teaching from home this year while on medical accommodations.
“I am now really comfortable with Google Docs and all other Google platforms,” Bergeron said.
Ash, Bergeron and science teacher Evy Woodsmith all said they plan to return to the building as soon as they are “fully vaccinated” or sometime in the near future. They are all very excited to return and see faces they haven't seen in over a year.
“It will be nice to see people,” Bergeron said. “I miss seeing my coworkers and bouncing ideas off of them, and of course seeing my students again.”
With excitement, though, brings nerves.
“It does make me a little nervous to come back and talk to people in general,” Woodsmith said. “So much of my communication has been over zoom.”
Others said they are still concerned about staying safe when amongst more people.
“I think just being around so many people so much more is definitely going to be an adjustment,” Ash said.
Once teachers are fully vaccinated they must return to school according to Principal William McGowan. This is one more step towards making high school feel closer to “normal” again.