A Learning Curve

Teachers Discuss New Experiences, Challenges, Adaptations

Teaching+in+her+classroom%2C+Pre-AP+Algebra+II+and+AP+Statistics+teacher+Wendy+Martinez+adjusts+back+to+in-person+learning.+The+freshmen%2C+children+of+faculty+and+students+without+internet+access+are+the+only+students+allowed+back+on+campus%2C+which+means+that+there+are+only+a+few+students+present+in+each+class%2C+if+none.+%22This+experience+will+always+be+part+of+my+teaching+story%2C%22+Martinez+said.+%22I+will+appreciate+the+ways+it+has+pushed+me+out+of+my+comfort+zone+and+forced+me+to+try+new+things.+Some+of+those+things+I+will+keep+with+me+no+matter+the+situation.+I+have+grown+in+patience+with+myself+over+this+process.+I+have+also+recognized+that+building+relationships+with+my+students+is+what+I+value+the+most+and+that+I+really+do+miss+all+of+those+everyday+opportunities+to+interact+and+laugh+with+my+students.%22

Photo by Paige Hert

Teaching in her classroom, Pre-AP Algebra II and AP Statistics teacher Wendy Martinez adjusts back to in-person learning. The freshmen, children of faculty and students without internet access are the only students allowed back on campus, which means that there are only a few students present in each class, if none. “This experience will always be part of my teaching story,” Martinez said. “I will appreciate the ways it has pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to try new things. Some of those things I will keep with me no matter the situation. I have grown in patience with myself over this process. I have also recognized that building relationships with my students is what I value the most and that I really do miss all of those everyday opportunities to interact and laugh with my students.”

Ally JohnPress, Reporter

As students struggle with the transition to online schooling, some may not realize the impact it has had on teachers. Since the switch to virtual learning, teachers have adjusted their routines, put in many extra hours of preparation and made sure to keep students engaged despite various distractions. 

One common issue teachers are struggling with is communicating through the screen, according to Pre-AP English II, AP Research and PSAT Team teacher Lauren Madrid. A student could be confused about the material being taught in class and not feel comfortable asking the teacher and not receive the help they need. Madrid also explained that teacher-student relations are important to one’s learning, and sitting behind a screen doesn’t allow for much personal interaction. 

“Online [school] is harder because I can’t quickly help students that might be confused,” Madrid said. “In the classroom, I can tell who doesn’t quite understand the material by the look on his/her face. I can’t see that online – especially when they log off Zoom for flex time and don’t come back if they have a question. [Also,] I don’t have time online to have idle chit-chat with students. That banter is how I usually get to really know my students. I really miss that. Whole class and group discussions are definitely difficult.”

In addition, some teachers have had to slow down the pacing of their classes, even if advanced, and reformat their lessons. The constant screen time and absence of in-person feedback are hard, according to Pre-AP Algebra II and On-Level Statistics teacher Wendy Martinez.

“My lessons are shorter and our pacing is slower than usual,” Martinez said. “Students reveal a lot about their understanding through body language and facial expressions, [and] I feel like we are having to multitask in so many ways with the technology and running the show that it is hard to focus on the Zoom faces too.”

When teachers returned to campus Sept. 8, they had to adjust to the newly implicated regulations. Masks must be worn full-time, social distancing is strict and certain hallways are one-way. For some teachers, such as Algebra 1 and OnRamps Pre-AP Precalculus teacher Pam Martin, being at home was easier.

“I really enjoyed teaching virtually from home because I didn’t have to wear a mask,” Martin said. “I am a theater person and facial expressions are critical in my opinion, to virtual instruction. I [also] have asthma and other medical issues that make [going back to school] pretty scary for me, personally.”

Furthermore, teachers with kids of their own face issues at home. Their attention can be divided between assisting their own kids and teaching their students. Making sure that everyone is successful is tough to balance, according to Pre-AP and AP Chemistry teacher Christopher Cieri.

“I have two children, 8 and 10, and virtual learning has been incredibly challenging for them,” Cieri said. “It is nearly impossible for me to teach my students and also help my children with their online learning at the same time. Besides the challenge of needing to help my children, it is very difficult to intervene when students are struggling. In class, I can quietly help them while the other students keep working but over Zoom, people hear everything and it is tough to help struggling students unless they choose to come to a DEN or tutorials.”

Teachers have also noticed how the freshmen are handling the start of their high school career.  According to Martin, she thinks that freshmen were expecting a more “normal” school versus what school is like now. 

“[The freshmen] seemed a bit overwhelmed with the newness of the school and having to do Zoom from their desk,” Martin said. “Most of them had a setup that they’ve been using at home, just like me, and this is yet another round of ‘new’ for all of us. I am proud of my freshman, [and] most are trying to stay engaged, but are not used to being so ‘on their own.’”

However, teachers are doing their best to remain positive about the new school situation. Whether it be allowing students to find their own academic path in a class or seeing that teachers embrace their student’s newfound individuality, virtual school has proven to be memorable.

“​This experience will always be part of my teaching story,” Martinez said. “I will appreciate the ways it has pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to try new things. Some of those things I will keep with me no matter the situation. I have grown in patience with myself over this process. I have also recognized that building relationships with my students is what I value the most and that I really do miss all of those everyday opportunities to interact and laugh with my students.”