When the 2020-2021 school year was confirmed to resume, students were faced with the option of going to school on campus or online. As for teachers, they were faced with the challenge of balancing all of their students face-to-face and through a computer screen. 

“Initially, I am sure as many did, we thought it would be a temporary adjustment,” U.S. history and law studies teacher Debbie Cantor said. “None of us had any idea when we left school for spring break on Friday, March 6 that we would not be returning. Never did I think, at that point, that it would carry over into the fall.”

Students, parents, teachers, and staff alike thought of the risks and possible consequences of returning to campus. Now, teachers host Webex meetings for those who feel more comfortable staying at home. However, at school, they take the necessary safety precautions, while attempting to interact and help out students from a distance. 

“At the beginning of the school year I was worried about the health and safety of my students, the other teachers, and their families,” honors and AP Chemistry teacher Brie Levesque said.There were so many unanswered questions. I wasn’t sure what coming back to school would look like.”

As for some, the new restrictions and precautions interfered with the teaching of specific content.

I was anxious about the masks and social distancing rules,” Geometry Honors teacher Lisa Stanfill said. “I wasn’t sure about my boundaries as the teacher as it related to walking around the room, helping students, teaching at the board and lending out calculators.”

In person, teachers are able to give lectures and directly answer any questions. On Webex calls, students are merely icons of their initials.

“My greatest difficulty with balancing online and in-person is making a connection with my online students,” English II Honors teacher Dawn Peterson said. “I have students that I will never see face-to-face that are in my virtual period, and that is difficult for me because I think building relationships with your students is important.”

The Cheating Pandemic

It is in a student’s nature to do what they can for the desired A, and it is no question that cheating has been a growing problem. Now, with school becoming strictly online, cheating is becoming even more common. 

“I know for sure that it happens… I receive several submissions per day with the wrong students’ name on it,” Stanfill said. “And that is just the beginning… ‘accidentally’ submitting the wrong page so the solutions will unlock and then re-submitting late and expecting the on time credit.” 

Stanfill isn’t the only teacher who is expressing concerns about student honesty. 

I would hope that MOST students display character, and integrity, and would not take advantage of the present situation,” Cantor said. “Whether it be in relationships, tests, or assignments, one’s core values should be evident here.”

Whether a student does their best in school, or not so good, tendencies to cheat will always be evident. Teachers from any grade and subject can agree. 

“I believe cheating is inevitable,” Levesque said. “It happens in person too. When students feel overwhelmed and there is too much emphasis on getting ‘good grades,’ Google is the easy way out.”

The In-Person Preference

As much as students, teachers and staff fear for their own safety, education is as important as it will ever be. Students will often learn subjects and be more productive in an interactive setting.

“I am an extrovert, I like to talk, be with people and interact in various ways,” Cantor said. “When teaching social studies, it’s harder to do projects and group activities when working virtually.”

Holding students’ attention is a priority for teachers as well. 

“Submitting daily assignments has proven to be technologically cumbersome due to internet troubles and printer issues,” Stanfill said. “Students focus better with one-on-one feedback of the daily in-person homework check I used to do.”

Others simply believe their time is completely consumed by the extra time it takes to make their normal content work online. 

“I miss teaching,” Levesque said. “I feel like all of my time is spent preparing the assignments and video lessons for the next day… I don’t actually get to teach and work through the problems with the students as much as I used to.”

Teachers’ Advice

One way students can keep themselves organized, whether that be on campus or online, is to keep track of your projects and future assignments to get things done on time. Not only will this benefit students, but teachers too. 

“I have strongly encouraged my virtual students to establish a routine,” Cantor said. “I would hope that they would get up and carve time out during their day to “attend” each class that they have, and give it the same amount of time and attention that they would if they were in school. Establishing a routine will better serve them when they return to school in January, which I am anxiously awaiting to see all of them!”

Once your routine is set, all that’s left is to persist.

“Don’t fall behind,” Stanfill said. “It is way more difficult to catch-up than to keep-up.”

Although you may be a well kept-up student, or an amazing teacher, the most important key to have a great year during times like these is to find your happiness.

“My only advice for students and teachers during this time is to stay positive, because we are all in this together,” said Peterson. “I feel like the students have done a phenomenal job this year.” 

“Find someone you can laugh with and be silly with,” Levesque said. “Remember, we are all under immense amounts of stress right now, this is new territory for everyone and we have to be patient with each other and choose kindness more often.”