Returning Back to School during the COVID 19 Pandemic!

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Savannah Freeman , Author

Returning Back to School during the COVID 19 Pandemic! 

After the outrageous COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, New Castle Jr/Sr High School returns back to school face to face. Social distancing and mask mandates are the new normal here in Pennsylvania. As teachers started to implement these guidelines and recommendations, many found themselves balancing education and health more than ever. During these times, there are many questions and wonders. Savannah Freeman, a 10th grader had an opportunity to interview a few teachers during this F2F return!

Question: How did covid affect your teaching career in a negative and positive way? 

Ms. Buckle said, “On the plus side, I believe I am now a little more aware of how to present information to students in different ways. For instance, if I am teaching or introducing a skill I will repeat, repeat, and present in another way to ensure all students are learning and grasping the concepts.  Negatively, I am trying to work on my patience regarding organizing my technology materials. The clerical end of this is a lot to manage! “

Ms. Wiseman said, ¨Negatively most of the year I had to change everything I already knew about teaching. I had to learn how to deliver my lessons on the computer and had to spend a lot of time converting my documents, books, and files to a digital format so my students would have access to them. Positively, it helped me become more knowledgeable about different computer programs and apps that I may have not used in my classes ever. So I absolutely learned things that will make me a better teacher but virtual learning overall was a complete struggle for me last year. “ 

Ms. Salisbury said, “The biggest negative impact that the Covid pandemic has had on my teaching career was robbing me of spending the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year and the beginning of 2020-2021 with my students in the classroom. We made the best of the situation, though; a positive outcome has been that I’ve been able to expand my capabilities as an educator. I’ve been able to find new ways of teaching and more educators to collaborate with.” 

Question: What has been the biggest teaching challenge during this pandemic and why?

Ms. Buckle said, ¨Trying to make sure all students are learning has been quite a challenge. I know that the information and skills were presented, but not to be able to see students’ faces and body language, a teacher cannot truly access if all are learning.¨

This school year’s return is like no other, trying to focus on the positive is a challenge for many students and teachers. 

Ms. Clark said, “The biggest challenge is not being able to know my students.  If they logged in, they usually hide their faces.  And, if they were in-person half of their faces were covered. The interaction was minimal because students were embarrassed to speak in front of a screen full of people.¨

Question: What was the hardest part about moving your classes online?  

Ms. Clark said, “Moving all of my information to a google classroom was not difficult, but it was time-consuming and tedious.“ 

Ms. Wiseman said, Learning everything we had to learn, having so many tabs and screens (I had to use two screens to teach all year) in front of me instead of students, and trying to teach hybrid with students on the computer and in class.  There were a lot of things to remember and keep track of daily.¨

New Castle Jr/Sr high school was full of virtual learning for many months, some students had the ability to return last year in person but most chose to stay home for safety and health. 

Ms. Salisbury said,The hardest part when moving classes online was making sure everything was easy to find and understand. When we’re all in a classroom together, it’s easy to answer any questions or clarify any information. When we’re online, it’s a bit more difficult to make sure everyone is understanding the material and the assignments.”

Question: What did you miss the most about in-person teaching?

Ms. Buckle said,The ability to talk to students to both ensure learning and simply to check-in to make sure they are ok or see if they need anything was a big part of teaching that cannot be addressed virtually. “

Ms. Salisbury said, “Something I missed the most during in-person school was seeing my students every day. Even on the toughest days, even on my worst days, even on days when it would’ve been easier to just stay in bed (lol)- being able to see my students, talk with them and learn with them, made it worth it every single day. Of course, you can still do that virtually, but something about being in-person makes it so much better.”

Question: How are you preparing if we have to shut down again this year?  

Ms. Wiseman said,  “I am trying to establish connections and structure with my students now and make sure that they all know how to use Google classroom, their email, and google hangouts so that they will be able to do their work or communicate with me if they can’t. “

Ms. Clark said, “I did a “boot camp” the entire first week of class.  I taught students how to navigate my google classroom, their email, Sapphire, and anything else that they would need to know if we went virtual.  I am working out of my google classroom, but I still have books available to use in the classroom. “

 Another shutdown at school is always a possibility. Students and teachers are preparing every day! 

Ms. Salisbury said,I’m trying to prepare by already utilizing Google Classroom, so that way my students already know how to navigate our virtual spaces. I’m also making sure that I have digital versions of any materials that we may need to use, so that way students can access everything through Google Classroom. I’m also making sure that I have print copies for those students who may not have internet access. I’m sure there are plenty of other things I need to do to make sure we’re prepared; it’s a lot to think about, but it’s better to be prepared.”

A special thanks to the interviewers! We want to wish everyone a safe and healthy school year! We got this Canes!