by Ashley Pope, with the NSOracle.com staff
When North Springs made the leap to online learning in a span of days — from the March 12th closing to a March 16th online re-opening — the school led the charge out of the gate, with online classes taught on Microsoft Teams, a variety of challenges to face, and literally “Building the plane as they fly.”
Online school proved not to the same or even as easy as one would think compared to being in an actual building. Arranging home schedules to not miss morning classes around family need and quiet places to work was harder than many thought. The Oracle asked both students and teachers about the transition, and found many fascinating points of view.
Sophomore Emily Papleux emphatically states, “Teleschool would be more enjoyable if not for the circumstances. To me, it’s a reminder that our world is sick, and everyone staying inside is the only solution. Going to school, like our normal routine, would have been way more effective, but that’s not the case. Stopping school because of a virus is a harsh transition.”
Sophomore Nina Schwelm, editor of NSOarcle’s sister publication, Echo magazine, notes a deep sense of irony. “Before Teleschool, everyone seemed to complain about going to school. Everyone wanted to go home. Now that we’re at home, everyone wants to go back to school.”
“I don’t like it,” says Junior Laila Freeman. “I procrastinate a lot more.”
Emily Papleaux stresses her frustration with learning to navigate online learning. “I would like instructions to be more clear and posted. Some teachers use different platforms and it confuses me.” Papleux does say that she likes how she can work in the comfort of home,” but reiterates that she dislikes how some things are not always communicated clearly.
Schwelm notes another communications advantage: “I like online learning because in some meetings you can mute certain students and disruptions are no more. All the disrespectful students you can avoid with no conflict. I don’t like online school because I find myself distracted with other things at home.
Sophomore Aaron Weinberg notes another dichotomy: “Teleschool is beneficial in ways such as work being completed faster and more efficiently between the classes,” he says. “But with that good, it makes it more complicated less hands-on to learn, and it creates an unbalanced schedule with the work and live sessions between classes, and a daily routine.”
Treania Matthews, a current junior, has a different set of circumstances and perspective. She says, “I like quarantine learning; I’m able to take care of things I wasn’t able to take care of in high school.” Treania is considered an essential employee at Publix, so she says she spends more time at work than looking at books. Going online school is easier for her to find balance between work and her classes.
“Most classes I’m able to attend and then go to work,” Matthews says. “If I miss anything, then I can catch up and later get a better understanding of the material.” She notes that this proves possible due to recordings of classes and virtual programs through powerpoints, Google Slides, and Nerapod.
11th grader Kaylyn Jean concurs, saying, “Teleschool is boosting my grade, because I am able to work at my own time and not be rushed.”
Current 11th grader Milan Giley says that taking AP classes online actually proves harder online than in-person. “Having class only one day a week is harder to memorize material.” However, she emphasizes, “School in quarantine is not bad; it’s just a lot to keep up with.”
Giley and others express that some teachers are giving more work than what they give during a “normal” school day. She notes therefore, that for those who procrastinate, it is not ideal, a thought that Nina Schwelm concurs with. “I’ve been procrastinating a lot more and doing my assignments later in the evening versus as soon as I get them.”
“Live school is better,” says sophomore Davis Williams.”It is harder because you don’t have motivation to do your work. I miss school in-person school.”
Sophomore Saniaah Hardy says, “At the start of tele-school, my teachers seemed to be giving us a lot of work, and every week I was behind because I tried to focus on one subject and not fall behind in that class. This just led me to fall behind in every class of mine but one. I’m still a bit behind in my classes so I’m definitely using the majority of time day and night working to catch up.” She noted that having a younger sibling around also did not make things easy.
Some students noted the opposite, that over the course of nine school weeks, they had the advantage of extra assignments and a flexible schedule that teachers could set online for them, more time to procrastinators to get the work done, and more help to to struggling students.
Allie Luna, a freshmen who arrived mid semester, but before the school closure, is more effusive. “I absolutely loved teleschool! Of course, I missed seeing teachers and friends in person, but I was able to focus on one subject per day, get certified as a lifeguard online, study Spanish with a teacher in Guatemala online and write a ton of poems and stories. I would love an option that was half attending school and half doing it online. In an ideal situation, I would choose half and half.”
Luna says that she didn’t have to make many adjustments to online learning at all. “In fact, I felt like I had more time to focus on each subject and learned a lot more! I would do it exactly the same except I would like to do it from a yacht in the Caribbean.,” she aughs.
“I like the extra time you have when you’re doing online learning,” she explains. “I had the block schedule at my old schedule and it felt like that, but better. The only thing to dislike is not seeing people, but our lives are more important than seeing friends. “
Sophomore Raviv Walker agreed that while teleschool is a good idea in theory that should be explored more, the current situation makes it inconvenient and stressful for almost everyone involved. It also affected things personally.
“I have ADHD,” she says. “Making this transition was especially hard for me. I can’t easily self-direct tasks when I’m not in a working environment and don’t have an external schedule telling me when to work. Many of my teachers use different tools from each other, making it difficult for me to keep track of what assignments are located where. Other than that, I enjoy being able to work on my own time and spend more time with my family.”
Nina Schwelm agrees. “I have time management issues galore,” she says. “Being at home is a struggle. Having a set schedule really helped before, and I liked having the responsibility of being some place at a certain time.”
Junior May Olotu says that the teleschool system has been incredibly strenuous for her because she wasn’t used to doing all my work at home. “At school I have so many reasons to be focused, but at home it has proven to be quite difficult to be focused because there are so many unforeseen distractions. In any ideal situation my thoughts wouldn’t be as different because normally I like to do most of my assignments at school, so I usually have a lot of free time at home to do the work I couldn’t finish….I dislike the lack of motivation [with] my work ethic. Most people might not view this as work and occasionally feel as though they are on holiday so the zeal to push ourselves to successfully complete the assignments while meeting deadlines is discouraging.”
Jesse Boyer, also a sophomore, personally hates the flow of Teleschool. “I miss having an in-person classroom and the hands on involvement that real school has. Not looking at what I’m working towards is not motivating in the slightest.”
On the positive side, Olotu says that there have been some positive improvements as teleschools progressed, such as changing work deadlines as well as timing of live online sessions. “What I like most about the online platform is the flexible learning, and the fact that I am usually entitled to sleep-in. I also like how we are all given enough opportunities to complete each work.”
Saniaah Hardy adds some of her own complex thoughts. “Some teachers are good about getting back to students when it comes to emails and questions, but I’ve heard from other students that there have been times where teachers just haven’t post assignments or answered emails. I will say that I was having a hard time finding some of my assignments for a class and I emailed my teacher about it and she helped me out with it. Not every teacher is like that, especially if they have more than one subject or level to teach.”
Hardy adds, “Teachers could have worked better in setting a schedule for students for their meetings and even a set time for questions, giving students roughly a time to know when to check their emails.”
She also noted the difficulty she had in schedules that teachers set due to various needs. “I originally had my classes in the morning when we started Tele-school, then three of my classes moved their classes to the afternoon which worked better for me. I had a class at 8:20 which was always earlier than my other classes and I would stay up late doing work so it was hard to wake up or even stay focus for that class when that was my most important class– the one I was failing, the one I was doing the most work for.”
Hardy adds that both she and her friendsfeel that if continued, Teleschools can be changed so students can focus on the failing classes more over the passing classes.
She adds an upside: “Students and teachers could have connected more with one another when it came to talking problems they had out with each other, with emails for example.”
Teachers also expressed their own thoughts about the shift in learning, which occurred the day before an intended full-day training that was reduced to half a day out of safety concerns. They had only a short amount of time to learn the ropes before being able to help their classes get used to new processes and ways of learning.
Not being able to be with the kids and help them in person proved welcome in many ways, but an adjustment for many. Mrs. Davis, 10th grade Chemistry teacher, states “I am learning to like online teaching, but I would prefer to teach at school.”
Math teacher Mr. Thomas had stronger words to say. “There is not an educator I have talked to that likes Teleschool or remote Learning. We don’t get the same interactions and can’t check for understanding the same way we could in the classroom.”
That being said, Thomas acknowledges that part of the issue is the rapid transition out of necessity. “You have to remember we didn’t have months or even weeks to come up with a plan, work out all the details, and have some trial sessions on what would work best. We had days to learn new procedures and apps, modify lesson plans, and go live. We adapted quickly in a less than ideal environment.”
Was Thomas happy with the result? “I believe educators stepped up to problem solve obstacles that no stakeholder wanted. Was everything perfect? No. But this was also an imperfect situation without a perfect solution.”
The bottom line: Tele-school was a quick solution to the COVID problem, and has many benefits, but all seems to miss the face-to-face angle. They miss their friends and their teachers, and all hope that this will not continue into next school year.