Teachers adapt to online classrooms
By Mead Gill, Copy & Online Editor
After two and a half long months of summer vacation restricted by coronavirus, students and faculty throughout the Vashon school district have re-entered the world of schedule and structure; the 2020-2021 school year has finally begun. Though online schooling is an adventure for all district members, one group has had to adapt drastically to the switch: the teaching staff.
As predicted, teachers across the district have run into a countless number of obstacles to overcome. Manda Long, a kindergarten teacher at Chautauqua has been dealing with frustrations of her own.
“I have 19 students in my class,” Long said. “To give you an idea of how it has been going, imagine a flight attendant trying to give safety protocol from the outside of the plane - a few will see you, you will see a few of them, but you can't hear any of them if they yell for help.”
Seniors at VHS taking part in an AP US Government class via Google Meets being taught by Jason Butler. Both students and teachers alike have had to adjust to online learning.
Direct communication with students is a big concern for teachers.
“I actually cried when I found out we were starting online,” McMurray humanities teacher Patty Gregorich said. “I thought there was no way I could build [a] connection with kids on a screen. And I'm actually super surprised that I feel like I can.”
Technology issues have also been a problem among teachers, as there are many pockets of the island with very weak WiFi connection. Many teachers work at their respective schools to avoid this problem, though it is not necessarily an escape.
“I work at the school and I use the school’s WiFi that’s designed to hold 500 people at once, and it still can’t quite keep up,” high school chemistry teacher Kathleen Regovich said.
Online classes have also put teachers in an interesting position in terms of test-taking and assessments. How can they monitor students that have the internet at their fingertips?
“I've realized that we really have very little control over whether a kid cheats or not,” Gregorich said. “I feel like it's a little bit like outsmarting the raccoons. Good luck with that.”
Some teachers use the software GoGuardian, which gives teachers viewing access to their students’ screens during tests or normal class time. Others have opted for open-note assessments.
“What am I trying to do when I give students a test?” Regovich said, on adopting open-note testing. “If I’m trying to emulate real life, there aren’t a lot of times… where somebody sits you down in a room and says ‘you have no resources, just do some problem solving.’ In real life, you get to use materials; you get to look stuff up in books… and the internet.”
Teaching curriculums are already packed with requirements, but some teachers feel obligated to educate students further on societal topics over the computer.
“What about the racial awareness that is opening the minds of our country?” Long said. “How will we educate our students without upsetting families while covering all of the curriculum?”
After five weeks in session, many questions remain unanswered. But as much as the lack of in-person schooling raises many concerns for teachers, there are benefits to teaching over Google Meets as well.
“In the classroom, sometimes it’s hard to get everybody to [stop talking] at once. But online, everybody is just muted. That’s easier,” said Regovich.
With at least 13 weeks to go, teachers will never stop learning how to run an online classroom. The opportunities to grow are endless.
"As a whole, VHS is a pretty strong, supportive community and I’m very grateful to have the students that I have and to have the coworkers that I have,” Regovich said. “This sucks but this is the group of people that if I had to choose to go through this with, I would choose to go through this with.”