Updated: Feb 23
COVID-19 has not only limited the interactions between students and teachers, but it has also taken away many opportunities for students.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are fewer options for tutoring, afterhours study groups at the school and educational groups such as National Honor Society and Student Government.
They also have limited sporting events, band and choir concerts, award ceremonies, in-person graduations and so much more that students look forward to each year.
Although these seem like huge changes, there are more that have been put into place and must be followed every single day in the classroom.
“Masks required, no lockers, temperature checks each morning, limited extra-curricular activities and online learning are some of the new protocols for our school,” said Jennifer Semishko, teacher at Halls High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Professors, teachers, and students across the country never imagined that their way of life would change so drastically over such a short amount of time. Along with the hurt from cancelled events and extra curriculars, students and teachers are struggling to find resources to not only teach, but connect, with their students through a computer screen.
“I would say the biggest challenge is trying to find meaningful digital resources since our district is pushing the use of technology,” said Semishko, “It’s hard to find stuff that will educate the kids and also keep them engaged.”
Teachers and students are also facing troubles when it comes to using technology on a day-to-day basis. For younger kids, learning how to operate a computer, perform assignments and connect with classmates can be very difficult.
“I think my students have adjusted well,” said Alyssa Mabe, first grade teacher at Gibbs Elementary in Corryton, Tenn. “At the beginning of the year it was very difficult for them to navigate the computer and understand all of the terminology we were using, but it gets better each day.”
Teachers may also have half of their class virtually and half in person, which can make choosing activities difficult. The opportunity for virtual learning has put many parents at ease, but it could cause their child to struggle and it could also cause teachers to struggle.
“This year our school district offered for students to be able to go virtual,” said Mabe. “So, in my grade level I was elected to be our virtual teacher. I currently have 22 students online, and it is very difficult for me to keep them engaged, on task and for me to help meet their needs through a computer screen. Parents are also trying to help a little too much. They are constantly taking their pencils away and telling them how to write and spell things instead of giving their child the opportunity to think about it on their own. It has been frustrating to say the least.”
Much like the many different struggles between teachers and students, there are many different opinions on what the best option is for education during the pandemic.
This year, many parents have chosen to send their child to virtual learning rather than in class, because being in-class can lead to a higher risk of COVID-19. Most schools and universities have been transferred to online classes to ensure public safety precautions.
While Mabe said that safety is the priority for everyone during this time, there are always going to be opinions on what is best for the students academically and emotionally.
“I strongly believe that in-person class is best,” said Mabe. “I know that there are many restrictions as far as masks and seating arrangements, but I think my children would benefit so much more in a classroom. Daily, we struggle with staying on task and keeping them engaged on the computer. It’s easy to correct a student who is sitting in your classroom, but virtually it is hard to tell if they are on task or off task. It is also a struggle with parents constantly doing their child’s work for them.”
Teachers and students have sacrificed many opportunities for the sake of each other’s health and safety, but that does not necessarily mean the system is benefitting from these changes. Students, according to their teachers, have been struggling academically and emotionally, relying on their parents entirely too much and are missing a huge social aspect of their life that they normally attain through going to school.
“I think that students who are virtual are not only struggling academically, but mentally and emotionally as well,” said Mabe. “I believe school interaction is just as big a part of school as academics is. Students need to have the available resources in the classroom for teachers to best help them succeed, it’s as simple as that.”
Students and teachers have had to rearrange their daily lives in ways they never imagined and adjusting to this new way of life can be difficult. Online learning, masks, social distancing and canceled events may not be what anyone expected this year, but, if that is what keeps everyone safe then it is all worth it.