For the safety of the community during the outbreak of the coronavirus, all schools in Connecticut were shut down (until May 20th at the time of publication) and switched to online learning experiences. This sudden switch has had an effect on everyone at EHHS, teachers, students, and families.
Prior to the switch to online teaching on April 1st, teachers were beginning to prepare themselves for what was about to come. Departments held meetings and their own Zoom calls to gather ways that would be effective to teach students. Dr. Joseph Marangell, Social Studies department instructional leader, planned five professional development days for teachers and has utilized the internet to reach out to other teachers across the country to see what they are doing in this transition. During three of the professional development days, teachers were able to use their own time to look through techniques added to the “Distance Learning Hub” on the district website. In the last two professional development days, teachers met in department zoom calls to learn about more techniques. Dr. Marangell had to do things differently due to the fact that he is an instructional leader and administrator; “Part of my role as an instructional leader is providing professional development for teachers related to new instructional techniques […] Whenever I plan for my class, I think about the professional development possibilities for teachers, as well. As an administrator, I needed to think of the "big picture" as I planned for distance learning, including what that might look like in different grade levels and the implications for both teachers and students. Before we began distance learning, I met regularly with the other administrators to come up with a plan that would work in all classes.” Dr. Marangell uses Zoom and office hours to help the teachers, and Parlay and Google Classroom as well to help students. He meets with his department once a week and offers to meet with smaller groups day by day if needed. Google Classroom was a tool that was being used well before the transition to online schooling. This educational platform is where teachers can post announcements, contact students directly, and post work or assignments to be completed. EHHS math teacher, Mrs. April Martindale, utilizes videos posted online and gives suggestions to help with the transition. She also gives guided notes to her students and offers zoom lessons, however, there are still some difficulties while teaching online; “My biggest problem is not being able to teach the material myself. I am so used to being up at the board, modeling the problems for my student(s).” One of the problems teachers are having is that they are not able to teach the material to students the same way that they could while in class. Learning becomes less interactive for students, which is another problem Mrs. Martindale sees. She believes Zoom lessons should be mandatory, her students email her with questions yet do not attend her zoom lessons.
The transition has also affected the students. Going from having a teacher explain things to you in real-time and in-person is a whole different process then being taught through a computer. Senior, Jonathan Mulero, has been emailing his teachers to help him with the transition into online learning. One issue that some students are having is that 30 minutes does not seem enough for a lesson to be taught. Senior, Diego Ortiz, also agrees that 30 minutes is adequate time for class because the shorter class time prohibits teachers from overloading students with work to complete. Sophomore, Christopher Bagnoli, along with other students, has been having some difficulties with the online school process. The transition into online schooling could have been easier for him, “My friends and family have helped me with the transition, but the school/teachers kind of just dumped the work onto us.” Christopher believes that if the workload per class were lessened, then online learning would be better. A problem that is faced is that teachers do not know what is going on in students' lives with the added difficulty of being stuck at home. Some students may not be comfortable enough to email their teachers and tell them what is going on while their school work is not being done.
The transition into online classes may not have been easy for all students to get used to. However, there are benefits that come along with the process. English teacher, Ms. Christine Bauer, acknowledges the fact that some students are handling online school better than others. She mentioned, “Some kids are really great at it! They log in, get their work done, ask really good questions, so for some students it works really well. And yet, they aren’t with their friends; they deserve the full school experience.” Thankfully students are able to continue school during this troubling time, and the EH community has done a tremendous job in spreading positivity.
Although online schooling may not be for everyone, here are a few tips that may help you out: creating a schedule for yourself, working at a desk and not in bed, turning off your phone, and going somewhere with little to no distractions.