“I have never seen so many changes in so short a time as I have in 2020,” said San Joaquin Memorial teacher Kelley Robbins.
As everyone knows, SJM has made the transition from 100% virtual learning to a hybrid schedule that allows students to attend classes in-person twice a week.
“I think it was the best option for San Joaquin Memorial as a school overall,” said SJM teacher Laura Holden. This hybrid schedule gives students the opportunity to attend classes in-person if they are comfortable doing so. If they feel more comfortable staying completely remote, the hybrid schedule also allows students to do so.
Naturally, there are many disadvantages when it comes to the hybrid schedule and online learning in general.
“A lot of what I did in class was class discussions about the subject matter, the thing we were reading, and the comfort levels of sharing on Zoom has really limited the possibility of those kinds of conversations,” said SJM teacher Katerina Spencer.
Getting freshmen to talk about the deeply rich metaphors and symbolism in Romeo and Juliet is hard enough as it is, but adding the awkwardness of Zoom has turned the classroom into a breeding ground for unusual silence.
“It is difficult to read student engagement because I have such little control over distractions, and it is difficult to make sure students are the sole authors of the work they are submitting,” said Holden.
It is always difficult to avoid distractions in class, since there is usually always something more entertaining than learning how to differentiate between “their” and “they’re.” However, learning at home has presented an even more challenging obstacle to paying attention. With disturbances such as video games, television and younger siblings running around the house chasing the cat, paying attention to those grammar lessons has become even more difficult.
It is also difficult for teachers to be able to tell the difference between genuine student growth and outside resources that students are not supposed to have access to. I am, of course, referring to parent participation in assignments. While our sophisticated highschoolers are no longer trying to get away with forging their moms’ signature, they are clearly unafraid to ask for help on their essays.
“There are benefits? Just kidding. One of the benefits [of the hybrid schedule] is it forces me to be much more organized,” said Robbins.
She elaborated on this and explained that teaching online has forced her to prepare plans far in advance and maintain organization for the sake of her students. She has also transitioned a lot of her materials online to give students access to the material being taught. At the end of the day, Robbins is just “fortunate that [she is] still able to teach.”
“I have been reading more, back to my age-old hobby,” said Spencer when asked how she spent her time during quarantine. I can not say that I was particularly surprised that an English teacher was reading, but you know, that is what they do. Spencer has also “sewn a grand total of two masks.” Considering that I have not made a single one, I think this is definitely cause for celebration.
“I have finally completed a mosaic of Starry Night that I started a long time ago,” said Robbins. “Paint[ing] mandalas on rocks... is something I [have] been doing for about five years,” she elaborated. The next time you see her, perhaps you can convince her to show you a rock that she has intricately painted. If you are up to it, you can also try to lure in Homer, Robbins’ cat that lives on the school campus, with his favorite treats.
“The person that I want to be is the person who chooses to use these things to become more virtuous, not the person who explains away my vice based upon outside circumstances,” said Spencer. It is important to stay strong and stay safe during these difficult times. Think of all the great stories you will be able to tell your grandchildren someday. They think they had it rough? Pfft, try living in 2020 kid.