Here’s what a typical classroom at LHS looks like right now: students sit at their desks six feet apart, while the teacher speaks to a less than full classroom and a computer screen. Unfortunately, this is what hybrid-learning has been like during the pandemic, and even though over half the school year is done, it can still be strange and overwhelming. But this doesn’t mean that students and teachers haven’t discovered some things from this experience that are positive––things we might even want to continue when the pandemic is over.
Ms. Mary Dillon, a teacher at LHS, hopes to continue using technology like Zoom to help students and teachers when they are unable to be physically present in school. For instance, a virtual extra-help session after school, or even the possibility that “school cancellation for inclement weather will become a distant memory and we no longer will have to extend the school year in June!” says Ms. Dillon.
Ms. Julia Fournier-Rea, a biology teacher at LHS, has also found many aspects of pandemic learning to be helpful. Ms. Fournier-Rea is also a member of the ACT committee. The ACT committee consists of five teachers, who meet with Principal Thomas Landers monthly, “to help guide the direction of our faculty meetings and bring faculty issues to the attention of the administration,” explains Ms. Fournier-Rea. Although it is not pandemic-specific, the committee has talked a lot about COVID-related topics this year, and discusses many issues such as scheduling, building maintenance, grading equity, and best teaching practices.
“While I don’t particularly want to keep teaching kids on a screen, I do really enjoy the chat feature of Zoom,” says Ms. Fournier-Rea. Whether it’s a quick class poll or a private message students can communicate to the teacher without embarrassment, the Zoom chat has proven to be a very versatile tool during hybrid learning. Furthermore, Ms. Fournier-Rea thinks that the chat “helps quieter students or students who need a bit more processing time to be able to participate in class discussions.” Perhaps when we return to normalcy, a similar tool to the Zoom chat will be incorporated into classes.
Zoom has also allowed classes to go on online field trips, and meet guest speakers virtually. Ms. Fournier-Rea believes that these unique experiences have “great potential to help our students communicate with scientists or other experts out in the world in a way that we haven’t been able to in the past without traveling.”
Google Forms, a survey tool that is part of the Google ecosystem that students and staff use, is another successful aspect of pandemic learning. As many people already know, remote and hybrid learning this school year have been especially stressful experiences for students. In response to this, many teachers have been giving students the support they need through mental health check-ins via Google Forms.
Google Forms have also been used for what teachers and students call “entry/exit tickets”. Used in many classes, these “tickets” are used to mark a student’s attendance and participation at the beginning and end of a class, and can be anything from a short comprehension question to a fun survey.
According to Ms. Fournier-Rea, overall, Google Forms seems to be a helpful tool that’s here to stay, “Google Forms are great for check-ins on both student mental health and for quick checks for understanding. I think I will likely keep my Google Form exit tickets too.”
What seems to be the most popular part of pandemic learning among LHS students is the new schedule. In a normal school year, students would have five or six academic classes, and Fridays would operate on a separate rotating schedule. However, this year, in order to accommodate COVID safety guidelines, a new schedule has been issued. Today, students have only a few academic classes each day, blocks are longer, and there is a separate rotating schedule for Wednesdays.
Senior Meghan Desrosiers, says, “Personally, I enjoy having longer class periods and having each class less frequently because it gives students more time to get work finished or study for exams prior to the next class period.”
This more relaxed schedule has even lowered many students’ stress levels. “I am less stressed out about getting assignments done for the next day,” says Meghan. “I am able to focus on just a few academic classes each day, rather than five or six of them.”
Junior Edgar Gebhardt agrees, saying that the reduction of classes per day has allowed him “less stress for homework every night.”
Even though we’re still stuck in this period of uncertainty, people are looking ahead and believe that LHS will come out of this stronger than before. Meghan, on behalf of all students, sends a thank you to the LHS staff, who have worked so hard to create the best learning environment possible, “Their constant dedication and communication with students has been very appreciated by many students throughout this time of hybrid and remote-based learning!”