Breaking the disconnect

March 10, 2021


Kassem Ossman

Remote learning has shown an impact student engagement and future of teaching.

Students and teachers have both struggled with remote learning; experiencing zoom fatigue and balancing personal and school life is a constant battle for both students and teachers alike. This issue has created a disconnect between the two and an ongoing struggle to understand one another.

Some students believe their teachers do not understand what they are dealing with. Not understanding what the students’ side may look like has impacted their workload and busy school schedule. Sophomore Catherine Hewawissa explains her experience with school work and opinion on teachers’ thought processes.

Once you get to a certain point in knowing you don’t understand a lesson, you either work harder or just give up.”

— Catherine Hewawissa

“Each teacher is different. Some give homework and don’t check it so there really isn’t much of a work load. Others pile a bunch on, ignoring the fact that we have six other classes. I think they think that virtual school leaves us with a lot of downtime, but honestly my entire life is now just school,” Hewawissa said.

Hewawissa also voiced that remote learning has also posed an issue of less student engagement and motivation in their classes.

“Teachers are doing their best to be engaging and I get it, but it’s just easier to not do anything,” Hewawissa said.

As teachers continue to lack an understanding of students’ perspectives, a question arises of what issues teachers are facing that is causing such a disconnect. In order to start understanding a teacher’s side, students must consider the extent of the direction that was given from administrators at the start of the pandemic. Social studies teacher Carolyn Flores describes the school’s format for decision making in terms of workload and assessments.

“The school usually leaves it up to specific departments and course teams to make that decision… Our course teams have had conversations about what areas of the curriculum and what assignments are the most critical to meeting certain goals. Keeping that in mind has helped us to determine which assignments are essential,” Flores said.

Flores continued, stating, “[What has been directed from the school is to] always give time for students to work on it in class or start it. Some may get a lot done in class, others will not and may have to do more outside of class. For me it is about reasonable expectations.”

Between different departments, many conversations have been held in terms of what content is necessary to teach. Teachers have had to try a variety of teaching methods in order to find what is best fit in their classes. Science teacher James Workman outlines how he measures and determines his assessments and assignments under the hybrid model.

“As best I can, I am attempting to use assignments and assessments as I would normally. Assessments of learning make up the major portion of grade calculations. I fully acknowledge that there are more opportunities for students to utilize resources while assessments are completed when that normally would not be the case,” Workman said.

Workman continued, stating, “What is not normal is the way that I assess student learning with their practice work and assignments. I have been relying on Google classroom as a place for students to upload images of their completed work with their handwritten names visible. Grading in this way takes me much more time,” Workman said.

Handling different teaching methods has in turn increased many students’ stress levels. Senior Ivan Herrera spoke on how his stress has intensified since the beginning of the pandemic.

“In a regular year I felt like some teachers balanced out the work more, but now it’s like they think we have all the time in the world. I will get assigned four assignments on an odd day and have it due the next odd day but have no time to get it done because I’m too busy doing my even days’ work. I know they were given a limited amount of work to give to us but most of them have gone way over an hour worth of homework,” Herrera said.

Herrera continued, explaining what he believes teachers are having trouble with and spoke about his concerns.

“I feel like they are so stressed out trying to cram in so much content and making so many assignments in the three class periods that they forget to make the learning part more impactful… most of my teachers haven’t tried to make class fun. We just did virtual lockers and now they just talk at us and forgot to make class inviting for real,” Herrera says.

Students are not the only ones noticing the disconnect throughout their classes; teachers have experienced the impact it has had over the past three semesters in their performance. Different beliefs have arisen on the reasoning behind the disconnect, but Workman describes the impact and cause of the disconnect in his classes to be a lack of stimulation.

It has been even more difficult this year because so many students are sitting in their homes by themselves.”

— James Workman

“I can sense it, and I see it in how students are performing on assessments this year and comparing that to rates of success in previous normal years. I think it is because many of the fun parts about school just aren’t happening: he dances, the games, the assemblies, the time to stop and talk to friends in the hall between classes, sitting together at the lunch table, none of that is happening,” Workman said.

Workman continued, stating, “I feel like I don’t know my students as well, and they don’t know me as well… It has been even more difficult this year because so many students are sitting in their homes by themselves.”

What are teachers doing to end the disconnect with their students has been a continual concern, but Flores reveals her unique style of teaching and what has worked best in her classroom.

“I do a lot more class building than I have ever done. It is really difficult not to be able to see students. I can deliver content and instruction, but the remote/hybrid schedule makes it difficult to know how that content and instruction is received,” Flores said.

Flores continued, stating, “I do a lot more class building than I have in the past. I try to do fun little challenges, usually music or movie trivia. It is fun and music usually puts people in a good mood — I think my students like it.”

For some, fun class-building activities have been used, but there are still missing pieces to the puzzle. Senior Aamari Taylor has more requests of her teachers outside of activities to help restore what has been lost.

“I would ask teachers to try to make the class time more engaging [and] also [to] push more check-ins because if I feel like [if] my teachers care, it will encourage me to participate in a class where I feel like I am appreciated,” Taylor said.

This issue is shown to be one that can only be resolved with the understanding of one another. Students along with teachers have things to consider as well when it comes to rebuilding the connection. Taylor speaks on what changes she has made to adjust to this remote setting.

“Some changes that I have done is actually keeping a schedule. Since I am at home most of the time this is necessary. Unlike pre [COVID-19] where a bell dictates what I’ll do next, it is up to me to make sure everything flows smoothly,” Taylor said.

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