Countless struggles of a new normal

May 22, 2020

Due to the uncertain nature surrounding the pandemic, educators and students alike have struggled to find a balance. For students ranging from elementary to high school, online learning highlights an existing obscurity. With little routine in their daily lives, students lose sight of the essence of learning, resulting in a decline in academic performance.

Teachers whose ultimate goal is to provide a student with a fulfilling education are given the seemingly impossible task to reach every student. They also hope to continue encouraging them to keep striving for success, not limited to academics.

“In many ways, the job itself hasn’t changed,” English 3 teacher Blake Hollowell said. “Any educator worth their salt aims to ‘meet students where they’re at’ and spur them forward. The difficulty of the present moment is that our students are now in wildly different places than they were even weeks ago, and [moving] ‘forward’ could very well just mean ‘toward healthy.’ And that’s OK.”

Although students claim they can’t wait to get out of school, deep down they know they love being around their friends and their teachers.”

— Huffines Middle School GT teacher Traci Bradley

Though it is frequently overlooked, the public school education system gives students and educators a sense of solidity. Teachers have come to understand while students did not always appreciate the five-day school week, it was a routine students could count on. During the online learning period, the lack of structure has rendered students unmotivated and discouraged.

“Students have probably scattered,” Huffines Middle School seventh and eighth grade GT teacher Traci Bradley said. “Having to stay home can be lonely [and] coming together with classmates via technology to combat the isolation can never replace personal touch. Although students claim they can’t wait to get out of school, deep down they know they love being around their friends and their teachers. The ‘Good morning’ each day is something we take for granted.”

The well-being of each individual student has made its way to the top of educators’ priority list. Mediums like Zoom and Webex serve not only as means of instruction, but open the door to conversation so students and their families can vocalize their concerns, as mental and emotional health has also been on the decline during this time.

“Once the state and district decided it was best for everyone not to return to school after the break, I created a log for each teacher to communicate with students and families at least twice a week,” Diaz said. “The log included questions about access to wifi, food, technology devices, applications needed and so forth. However, the most important question in those logs was ‘How are you and your family doing?’ Once the logs were completed, my principal, counselor and I went through them to ensure we were making contact with all our families. When any of the answers raised a red flag, we divided up to personally contact those families via phone calls or visits. I’m happy to say that out of almost five hundred students, we were able to reach all but two families. We gave that information to the district and authorities to check on those families to ensure their well being.”

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