How Have Flint Hill Teachers Adjusted to “The New Normal”?

How+Have+Flint+Hill+Teachers+Adjusted+to+%22The+New+Normal%22%3F

By Brennan Kraus, Section Editor

As we are now fully into the 2020-2021 school year, we have all encountered the aspects of “the new normal” and the challenges that come with it. While students are faced with more homework and new changes to the social aspect of the school experience, for teachers there are many adverse effects and hurdles that they must endure in order to create a productive, successful, and enjoyable learning environment for their students. In reaching out to teachers in various departments in our Flint Hill community, we can gain a better understanding of what our educators are going through during this challenging time.

 Making the student learning experience more interactive and fun is a difficult hurdle to overcome when, most days, students are learning from home with increased distractions. Even when in-person, learning restraints are in place due to the pandemic.  With the considerable changes teachers have been forced to make in order to create a positive learning environment, much unease arose due to the lack of connection possible between teachers and students with the new school experience. 

Upper School Science Teacher Jennifer Lear said, “my biggest concern is my ability to connect with students and determine their level of engagement with the material.  It is harder to check-in with students on an individual level when we have to social distance during in-person classes (and no in-person office hours) or when the whole class is in a Google Meet together.  I worry that those students who need help or some extra encouragement will not feel comfortable reaching out and that I may not see it.” 

It is vital to recognize that without students voicing their concerns, there is no way for teachers to understand if there is a problem, as this school environment is new for everyone. Another important consideration is the adjustment to the heavy application of technology in lesson plans and how this affects our faculty’s confidence in delivering content that reaches their students. 

In the words of Upper School English Teacher Tracy Peterson, “It’s not just the tech: it’s maintaining some sense of decorum when you, the teacher, realize something has gone wrong with the tech, and you don’t know how to fix it, but there’s no moving forward until you do.” She simply asks for students to “just continue to be patient with us as we continue to learn new ways of being effective in this crazy time.” 

This underlying message is a common feeling among teachers, as these new changes have transformed the way students comprehend material but also the manner in which it is taught. As Upper School History and Social Sciences Teacher Doug Schoemer expresses, “teaching and learning through screens and/or behind masks is inherently a less engaging system. As humans, we are coded to read body language and facial expressions, and these abilities are severely curtailed now. I can see 21 faces on screen but still not be sure most or all of them are getting what I’m putting out there.” 

To this notion, it is vital as students that we work to be engaged and supportive of the struggles our teachers are experiencing as well as what we are enduring. One way to do this is by turning our cameras on during virtual learning days. By demonstrating our engagement and interest through the simple act of showing our faces, we can make a more personal learning experience between students and teachers. 

When asked how students can be strong partners in education with teachers, Upper School History and Social Sciences Teacher Rob Horne explains, “We’re all in this together, what makes for the best classroom experience is if everyone is invested in the process. I realize that it’s more challenging than ever because there are more distractions and stressors, but if my students could just try to jump in with me and embrace the spirit of the lesson, we could create a much more productive learning environment. Whether it’s an activity or a discussion, to be a part of it and to value the time we have together is vital.”

These are unprecedented times, and although it is difficult to combat the new normal when things are so different, it is important to work with our teachers and support them as they support us.

 

Featured image: https://aflcio.org/2018/5/8/teaching-solidarity-teacher-appreciation-day