Many students have been struggling with the unexpected move to online learning. Viewpoint School’s specific version of online learning has layered effects for its students. The schedule that they have for middle and upper school is more predictable and structured, but many students have still been negatively affected by it.
“With the new schedule we have 70 min blocks and a lot of teachers teach for the whole block and don’t give us breaks which are rough. Also, a lot of teachers go over time, and if there’s something we don’t cover in class (whether it’s our fault or their own) they assign it for homework which just adds to the workload” (anonymous student). These are common concerns that I have found with students including myself. Along with the fact that we cannot truly converse with the teacher after class either if we do happen to have questions. In reality, teachers don’t have as lenient a schedule for teaching students anymore with online school, and with a rigid schedule such as this, it makes it harder for conversations and other integral parts of learning and teaching to happen during or after class time. Although teachers are worried about getting enough material during class time, students need breaks of at least 5 minutes during class and a full passing period.
The passing period also just ends up being nonexistent because many teachers go over time, and setting up for the next class takes a couple of minutes as well. All this takes away from being able to have that break during the passing period in which a lot of teachers say is all students need anyhow. The fact is, students, do not get nearly enough breaks from the screen and zoom classes throughout the day. Yet, they would majorly benefit not only the students but the teachers as well. It would provide an actual opportunity to converse with a teacher, move the body around, and do other necessities like giving the eyes and brain a break from having to focus on a screen for hours at a time. Breaks would be majorly beneficial because teachers and students alike have to work on screens during school hours and off-hours as well for school work.
Unfortunately, breaks are not the only concern we’re facing.
Many teachers no longer have a soft start because they believe there is no need for leniency when each class is ‘in the same place’. But, as mentioned before, hard starts to diffuse the ability to engage with teachers one on one after class as we normally could. They also increase stress for students when we cannot properly transition from one zoom class to another. Being able to also process our learning from each class (by way of a proper transition and breaks) would greatly increase our ability to give our full attention to each new subject throughout each day as teachers want. Students are sitting through class after class on the screen while completing work and being demanded their full attention for basically most hours of their day. This causes us to end up only being able to give 40-60% energy to each class just to be able to conserve ourselves for the whole day (including after-school work). Many teachers forget that we have also been forced to deal with tough adaptations to a quarantined lifestyle along with many of the same challenges with online schooling, as teachers too. So if teachers would be willing to better adapt to a more comfortable and productive style of learning for students in order to better adapt to online learning/school, we would at least have the opportunity to give 80-100% to each class and the teachers might therefore be less stressed about getting us students to fully learn.
Some good/productive ways teachers could adapt would be to not directly translate online school to ‘simpler and easier to juggle because there’s nowhere to get to’, giving a break every class of at least 5 minutes, and stop leading classes with hard starts (allowing a full passing period).
“The new schedule, in general, is really hard to sit through because of how long the classes are” (anonymous student). Online school is already enough sitting at the desk on the computer with the old schedule, but the new schedule seems to be keeping us on screens even more than before. It also keeps us from being able to move around and do things we enjoy enough, which, frankly, is something extremely important as we are quarantined without being able to be social in-person (the social aspect of life is also through screens now too).
“Teachers expect a lot from us with the online school which I think is not fair. They also give so much homework! And we have to do all this homework after school on screen. They say they want us to be off-screen for as long as possible but we’re still getting so much homework after school that is all online…” (anonymous student). The more screen time that gets piled on makes it even more exhausting and hard to stay focused and motivated through each school day, which seems to also be exactly what teachers fear. Many teachers are so focused on worrying about keeping students’ attention and energy in class, that they forget how it can contradict their goal of getting students to actually learn properly in their classes.
An unfortunate thing is that teachers are facing many similar challenges as the students, but many assume that because Gen Z grew up with technology, that we are somehow better at adapting to a pandemic. We’re all going through similar struggles. All students are having to deal with their home lives at the same time as their school lives, contrary to being in classes physically at school, just as teachers are. The difference is, teachers have far more life experience and freedoms during this time, in their homes, than we do as kids whether they struggle with online-based teaching or not. This along with the fact that students need actual full breaks from zoom schooling/sitting at a screen throughout the school day seems to get directly ignored by way too many teachers.
The fact is, teachers are struggling just as much as students to adjust to this ‘new normal’. We are all going through the same pandemic for the first time, so thinking of students as better adapted and more able to adjust, just isn’t factual or fair. Therefore, changes to the schedule, more breaks/longer breaks from screens, and soft starts for every class would be greatly beneficial for both students and faculty.