By Katie Williams
On March 13, 2020, Ukiah Unified schools closed their doors unsure as to when students would be able to walk through their halls again. Teachers were forced to teach through a computer screen, which made the already difficult job of being a teacher even harder. Teachers create digital classrooms, fun activities, and try their hardest to make this experience bearable. UHS News interviewed teachers about their experiences teaching through a screen.
Nokomis Elementary School’s Physical Education teacher Alex Van Patten has students from kindergarten through 5th grade. These grades are when students learn the foundation that will launch their academic success. Van Patten talked about how he, ¨dislike[s] that the children are in front of a computer screen for multiple hours a day. Plus, they don’t have space or equipment to practice the skills that we teach.” He also added that “this is all new and strange for all of us educators.” Ultimately, Van Patten said teaching online “is a work in progress” and he hopes that it will end soon.
Claire Merrit, a 7th-grade history and leadership teacher at Eagle Peak Middle School, said that middle school is when kids learn about the “real world” and they start learning life lessons growing out of friendships and making new ones. Merritt said “Overall, I am not a fan of virtual teaching. It is hard for me to connect to my students and it feels like we are less of a community than when we meet in person.” She recognized that it is just the start of the year so it could get better as students come out of their shells. Then she stated, “I find it challenging to help all of my students at once on a Zoom meeting.” She also talked about one of her favorite lessons that include hands-on activities, “Usually, I have students doing team building activities at the start of the school year, but I obviously cannot do that now.” This year with remote learning, I will have to figure out a way to engage my students in a whole new way.” Lastly, she talked about giving her students support. “This time is difficult for everyone, and I hope that my students start to feel like they have an online school community that they can turn to if they need extra support.”
Lastly, Ukiah High’s own science teacher Brenna Raugewitz said her biggest adjustment was, “missing the contact with students. I love seeing them in Zoom, but it is not the same. She went on to say she loves “reading their comments, but it seems so sterile.” She described how Ukiah High’s school day had actually changed since last March: “our course layout is different with four class of 90 minutes each.” She said this forces teachers to “get a whole year of content in one semester we all have to rethink and revamp our entire curriculum.” Raugewitz spoke to the impact distance learning has had on students, “I think the impact on students will be huge. Not only are they missing huge chunks of content, but the learning from others, the hands-on work and collaborative lessons do not transfer over the same in a virtual world.”
Overall, teachers and staff members of the Ukiah Unified School District are trying their best to help students stay on track. The coronavirus may be trying to break us down but together we can fight and together help students, teachers, and even parents through this tough time.