This editorial reflects the official opinions of 42Fifty’s 2019-2020 editorial staff. For more information on staff editorials, please see our editorial policy.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the nation have turned to remote virtual learning as they practice social distancing and self-quarantining. This may look different for everyone, as both teachers and students have to adapt to this new form of education. SD308 itself has to adjust to this system of distance learning that may likely last until the end of the year based on orders given by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.
For those of you still grasping to understand what school will look like for the next month, here is a breakdown of OHS’ learning plan. The grades that you currently have in your classes do not have the potential to drop any lower, and can only be maintained or increased by remaining engaged and demonstrating ability at a passing level. If students do not participate in remote learning and had an ‘F’ prior to school closings, they can still retain the grade for the course, thus needing to make up the credit at a later point. Teachers will recalculate semester grades when entering grades; if the grade increases, the teacher will record the points into Tyler SIS. If the grade decreases, teachers will use a Special Mark of ‘Pass’ or ‘Incomplete’; ‘Pass’ indicating a passing grade and ‘Incomplete’ indicating a level below passing which should be revisited and resubmitted. Teachers are to provide assignments three to five times a week through Google Classroom and have designated times during the week where they must be available to communicate with their students via email, Google Hangouts or other forms of communication (that schedule can be found here).
Also make sure to follow the ISBE work time recommendations found on the aforementioned schedule. Maintaining a consistent routine will allow for your body to retain the normal school schedule you have already carved out for the school year. However, if you are more productive at other times of the day, or you have other obligations to tend to, make sure to at least attempt to follow those guidelines for work time, and continue to get a good night’s sleep.
While you may feel it’s not important for you to participate in distance learning, it’s much better for yourself in the long run. At this point, your grade can only go up, and even if you don’t pass an assignment, you have the opportunity to turn it in again and attempt to improve your score. If not, you could end up with an incomplete at the end of the semester, meaning students would have to make up the credit over the summer or the next school year. Since you have the opportunity now to pass and receive the credit for the courses you’re currently taking, why not just do well now so you don’t have to worry about it in the future?
Another problem that comes with not participating in distance learning is the gap that will occur when we eventually do return to school. This is especially important for freshmen, who are still learning how to do more independent work, and the other classes who will have to adjust to higher levels in each of their courses. Next school year, we may have to return to this style of education if COVID-19 were to return in a second wave, according to an article published by the Guardian. For that reason, it’s also important that students understand how distance learning works in the event that we return to social distancing in the fall. Starting off the 2020-2021 school year poorly by not doing well with distance learning will prove to be adverse, as you will have to work much harder to recover your grades once we return to a normal school setting.
For most students, school is their main form of social interaction, so being out of school for these extended periods of time may prove to be detrimental, especially for those who struggle to get this interaction outside of school. Attending any form of virtual interaction, may it be Google Hangouts, can benefit students’ mental health as they are stuck at home, which may not be a positive situation for them.
Students also need to understand that this is a big change for teachers and staff as well, and are most of the time just as informed as you are on what’s occurring around us. Please be respectful of your teachers at this time as we all transition through this together.
Teachers must take notice that students may have personal issues at home, ranging from being a primary caretaker for other family members, to being their family’s major breadwinner during this period. For this reason, some students may struggle to turn in work on time, if they are even able to complete it at all. It might have been easier for students to turn in work on time while we were doing in-school education, but this pandemic may cause struggles in students’ home situations, making it difficult for them to focus solely on their education.
It is also important for you to find and maintain a balance between academics and students’ emotional well-being. Some students just want someone to talk to, or to see a friendly face, so offering this time for them to communicate with you besides the newest assignment that’s been passed out allows for them to give their mind a short break and unwind from the stress distance learning may be causing for them. Even just five to 10 minutes for students to converse and interact with you or their classmates during a Hangout session may be the relief a student needs to show they are not in this alone.
why not just do well now so you don’t have to worry about it in the future?
While it may be difficult to follow your normal curriculum outside of a school setting, make sure the work you do assign is relevant and purposeful. Assigning random worksheets will make students less motivated to complete the work, so make it clear why the work they’re doing is important and beneficial to them. Move the class forward as best you can, but make sure students are processing and understanding the information they’re learning.
An especially important point we want to make is toward teachers who have AP courses. Try to reassure and inform your students of every change being made to AP exams, and offer extra practice for your students to prepare for new test setups. Guide your students towards the College Board website to find new information and test prep. Continually communicate and provide resources and help for your students, offering opportunities for them to ask any questions they may have. Keeping them as well as their parents in the loop concerning AP courses and exams will lower their stress levels and provide them with more confidence going into their exams.
For those teaching freshmen and sophomores, make sure to keep them in check. This isn’t an opportunity for them to just slack off, as this will affect their academic standings as they prepare for the future. Guide them as best you can, offering chances for help and reminding them why they need to remain motivated during this time.
Math and English teachers who are teaching current juniors should provide SAT prep opportunities to allow them the extra practice, seeing as the SAT has been postponed. Students may be more confused and worried about college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT, so offering any and all information you have for preparation and test-taking will be a major support for students who may be worried about how they will score, as well as the time it will take for them to get their scores back and send them to schools. Also provide any help you can concerning the college admissions process, allowing students the opportunity to ask any questions that may have arisen in the event of this pandemic.
Be sure to check in with your seniors. They are missing their last events of high school, may it be related to sports, academics, or any of their other interests. At this point, seniors may not have the chance to walk at graduation, and will have missed out on an opportunity to spend one last night with friends at prom. Seniors are worried about their futures, and offering a place for them to get their feelings off of their chests will make them feel heard and comforted.
Show all your students that you care. Knowing that someone is looking out for us will make all the difference.
These are new and trying times for all of us. As we make this transition to remote learning for the foreseeable future, it is important to remember, as students and teachers, everyone is making adjustments. We are currently living through history and by working together, we can get through these strange times and emerge on the other side successful with a new perspective on our life and education.