“We feel like we’re first-year teachers all over again,” says Mrs. Mary Dillon, who has been a teacher at LHS for 28 years now. This year, remote and hybrid learning have presented unprecedented challenges for teachers, but they are working hard to create a meaningful learning experience for students in a new way.
Teachers are overcoming many of the dilemmas surrounding remote learning. Technical difficulties––including connection, accidentally muted teachers and students, and errors with assignments and homework online––are now less of a problem in classes, teachers report. The IT department has been working persistently to solve technology problems and improve student’s online experience.
One of the biggest challenges has been trying to create a meaningful learning experience for students, and finding “a balance between trying to make class challenging but not trying to create an unmanageable, overwhelming situation,” says Mrs. Dillon.
Hybrid learning, with about half the class at home and half in the classroom, is like “having ten tabs open in your brain at the same time” says Mr. Mark Staples, a teacher at LHS for 25 years now. He says it is challenging to manage students and materials online while simultaneously working with students in person.
The online class setting has made classes somewhat “glitchy and awkward”, says Mrs. Dillon. Class discussions and group discussions are often slow, and remote learning has made it easier for students to avoid participating. Remote learning this year also means “not having the opportunity to create a personal bond with students and colleagues” says Mrs. Dillon. There are very little personal interactions, creating a very “isolating experience” for both educators and students.
Mrs. Julia Fournier-Rea, a teacher at LHS for around 17 years now, says that she feels like relationships with students are much more limited now that teachers rarely see their students in person––“I felt like I should know everybody’s name by October, and I don’t yet.”
Of course there are many differences between remote learning and learning in school. Teachers can no longer use resources in the classroom that they would normally use in their lessons. Whiteboards in the classroom can’t be used to teach classes through Zoom, a tool many teachers have enjoyed using in previous years.
Small group work, activities, and discussions can be difficult to conduct safely and smoothly in both remote and hybrid learning. Thankfully, Zoom breakout rooms have proven to be very useful to accomplish group activities.
Despite the difficulties, teachers believe that there are some beneficial parts of this new learning situation. Mr. Staples says that he hopes we will “recognize the value of community in ways that we took for granted before.” Mrs. Fournier-Rea hopes students are managing their time wisely, and learning independence with less teacher support.
Teachers are encouraging students to keep up the effort and work they’ve been putting into adapting to these new circumstances. Mr. Robert O’Connell, a math teacher at LHS, says he is “proud of the effort students are putting into making remote learning, and now hybrid learning, a success.”
“We had some nightmare concerns going into this, but students have really risen to the occasion, and a lot of our concerns are not there anymore,” says Mr. O’Connell.