Dividing their screens and spacing out their desks are only a few of the changes that teachers are making. No matter how many years of teaching experience they have, teachers are as new to the in-person and virtual schedule as students are.
Teachers found out their classes and whether they would teach virtual, hybrid or all in-person Oct. 30, leaving them with minimal time to prepare for the new quarter.
“I was excited to go back and have students face-to-face. However, I found out [Friday evening] that I was completely virtual. There is a lot of anxiety around going back in-person because the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise,” physical education teacher Katelyn Arenos said.
Others, such as theater teacher Amie Gossett, are teaching a hybrid schedule. Hybrid schedules are a mix of in-person and virtual students. Gossett is teaching two classes during her sixth block: Acting for Digital Media and Cinematography and Screenwriting. Seventh block, she is teaching Foundations of Acting.
“In my six block where I have two classes at once, it is difficult to navigate sometimes,” Gossett said. “I’m a little nervous about going back to school. I have underlying health conditions that I probably shouldn’t be at school because of, but I was worried about the theater program declining if I wasn’t in person, and losing my position in the building, so I opted for in person, thinking more about the students and my program than my health conditions.”
For some teachers, making sure that students are able to work together is one of their main goals. However, with the health and safety guidelines in place, teachers are having to think outside the box to make sure that all students are learning efficiently and together.
“I feel like my classroom isn’t as warm and welcoming: it seems a little sterile to me,” Gossett said. “I had to remove extra furniture [and] I have my tables very far apart. Rather than using roundtables that create unity and synergy in the classroom, now it seems much more militant to me. I also have to have [a] special set up because of the kids that are virtual. When you teach a class that deals with movements and interaction and expression, you definitely have to figure out new and inventive ways to be able to teach that virtually.”
Similar to Gossett, Arenos has had to make changes to her classwork and curriculum because she is teaching movement two music at home.
“I have large class sizes so my workload has increased a lot from last quarter. Also, I have students from all four Parkway high schools, therefore I don’t know most of my students,” Arenos said. “I’m creating the class lesson plans every day based on how they go and
what students are enjoying or not enjoying. I’m not able to be more ‘hands-on’ with students and have one-on-one conversations. However, I’m still able to lead our workouts and the student’s enjoy being active every day.”
Elective teachers such as American Sign Language (ASL) teacher Jessie Menchak have faced unique challenges specific to their subjects. Since ASL is a hands-on language, a flat screen makes it difficult for students to see hand movements and copy them.
“You have [to have] a signing space, and that has been a challenge for some students because many times when I see kids, [they are] like ‘I don’t want to right now, I just woke up.’ I get that, but when it comes to my language, I have to be able to see people,” Menchak said.
Times are difficult for educators; With many restrictions on schools because of COVID-19 teachers are having to adapt to new situations and change the way they teach.
“This is my 18th year of teaching, and it is definitely making me feel like I’m a first-year teacher again. I get butterflies in my stomach before I start class because there are so many new things to navigate like chat and breakout rooms and emails and all of the things that go along with Zooms,” Gossett said. “Everything has a positive and a negative side. I am trying desperately to stay on the positive side for my sanity, for my mental health, for my physical health and for my love of teaching.”