The Rams are Back to Finish Off the Year

As students and teachers begin to come back to school they start to have their own view on how the school has been affected. Being back in person there are a number of new rules in responding to COVID that people should be aware of, such as, wearing masks, being six feet apart, going straight to class, and sitting in your assigned seat from day one. There are certain students that face similar challenges along with different ones than teachers.

Valor Dictus interviewed several students and teachers to discover their opinion on how school in-person and virtual learning is going so far as well as the challenges that it brings. 

Eileen Hoppock teaches VA/US History and Government Honors. Hoppock believes she has become more flexible since the start of COVID. Hoppock thinks coming back to school is a great opportunity. After being asked if she is happy students are coming back she replies, “Yes! Oh my gosh, of course! I am so happy students are coming. I think for a lot it was great for them to be in a virtual environment, but I would much rather see what students are doing than asking and no one responds. I think having people here gives me more opportunities to help them.” The biggest problem according to Hoppock is about technology issues like sharing a screen in the room and on the computer, but feels that it could be a user error. Hoppock wishes she could figure out a way people in person could talk to people at home. Virtual and in-person teaching has different challenges for every educator. “I think they are both hard for different reasons. My students don’t know me, my sense of humor. It’s harder to create a sense of community when you can’t see people’s faces. I don’t know if  this is working or not working but then you get in the routine but then a different challenge is how do I do both; do I start breaking things in half. I do create it so I am fully available for people in person and in virtual. Trying to figure out the new strategies,” stated Hoppock. There are a number of ways to try to protect yourself and others such as wearing a mask in public. However, masks can be a problem for certain people. Hoppock said that even though she has received both vaccines she still will continue to wear a mask to keep others safe.  The following question was what has affected Hoppock when teaching at school, she answered,“It’s harder for me to drink my coffee. That’s a silly thing. I feel like I’m shouting through my mask and trying to speak clearly at the same time. I am having difficulty knowing how to regulate my voice. It’s hard to not be able to pull up a chair not to someone since you need to follow the procedures. So I put a post-it on their desk building new ways of interacting, building face to face interactions.” The social studies teacher thinks that several students are thriving in virtual while others are better in person. Hoppock would like her students to know, “if there is anything that needs to be changed to let her know.”

Kristen Marker is an educator in the highschool classes Oceanography and Geosystems. Marker has adjusted her teaching style by making sure all of her materials are electronic rather than on paper. Marker is glad students are back in school because there are distractions at home. According to Marker there are many problems that have occurred during virtual learning, “Ghosting is one of the big ones. Where people just don’t reply; I’m just helpless. Like what am I supposed to do? I could get mad about it but there is no point. Besides it is kind of teaching students how to be more adult in terms of their communication. I mean that was a huge leap right you went from not having to check your email every day to now having to check two to three times a day. You know, making sure you are constantly paying attention to the side chat which takes practice.” If Marker could change one thing it would be to have bigger rooms and all the space she needs. Students are affected by the thought of COVID when they are worried about their friends and family becoming sick. Marker said that of her close friends at least four have known someone who has had COVID. The act of wearing a mask could cause some students and teachers problems as stated by Marker, “I have trouble breathing with masks so I have this headband with buttons on it; now my ears don’t hurt where as on the first day my ears hurt so bad. I actually found a little plastic piece that goes inside the mask between my face and the mask and it helps with breathing. It’s a weird feeling but I can breath.”  Overall Marker is happy that everyone is compliant with the mask rules. Several students and teachers may know the feeling when you have too much work but not enough time. Marker would like there to be more time to get more work done, but there is not enough time in a day.

Students are also adjusting to the in-person online schooling mix. Many students who are in-person are getting less distracted. “I can’t get distracted as easily because there is a teacher watching me,” said freshman Matthew Leather. Students are also reporting that they are paying more attention to the teacher and interacting with classmates. “I’ve been a lot better at paying attention in class and getting work done on time,” said freshman Hannah Smith. “I think taking notes is a lot easier in-person because the teacher is right there helping you. It’s a lot more interactive.” 

Along with the benefits of returning to school in-person, there are many differences now from the way school used to operate. “It’s weird to be back in-person so sometimes it’s hard going online on the other days because it’s so much different,” said Smith. When students are in-person, the size of class varies, causing other effects. “In some classes there’s barely anyone there and in some classes there’s a lot of people,” said freshman Elizabeth Seckinger. “It’s always really quiet.” 

There are different opinions on in person and virtual schooling throughout the school whether it be teachers or students. As the feedback from some of the teachers has shown there are challenges with both in person and virtual schooling. Adjusting back to in person may be hard at first but it should be easier in the long run.