by GABRIEL MINICHIELLO - November 19, 2020 - With Westfield High School three months into the school year, teachers give their opinions on the new stresses and responsibilities they are facing as educators.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (Oct. 2020) - It is a common fact that COVID-19 has drastically changed the school environment at WHS for students, and teachers are reacting to these changes in many different ways. For better or for worse, these new challenges are changing Westfield High School as a whole, as teachers are finding new strategies to continue to offer the highest level of high school education possible.
From the added stress of limited in-person classes, to the forced creation of new assignments to keep up with online demands, Westfield teachers are finding that this year is bringing new challenges for them in the wake of the COVID-19 quarantine.
The hybrid schedule with half of the school week of e-learning was a new addition for this year’s split-scheduling for students. As a result of this new schedule, teachers now find themselves having to create and grade assignments online in Canvas. Not only this, but with the implementation of attendance through Canvas and helping students emotionally and academically, it is no wonder that educators have seen an increase in the amount of work they have to complete, both on and off campus.
“The amount of non-teaching related work that goes along with e-learning has been overwhelming. For example, making sure that everything is on Canvas and all links work. In many cases, it has doubled the amount of items that I have on my plate,” Mr. Sam Temples, an AP World History and Law Education teacher said.
In regards to aspects of E-Learning in general, Temples regards that e-learning has been a challenge for students as well. “One of the biggest challenges has been getting students to see that virtual days are actually school days. Students either take extra work hours those days for outside jobs or don't spend the amount of time on work that is needed for a given task or assignment,” Mr. Temples said.
By no means, however, does e-learning take up the entirety of the school week. With the changes due to Covid-19 and the new measures the school has taken, teachers are facing new challenges in the physical classroom as much as they are facing in the virtual.
“It has been very difficult to get students to fully engage in and participate in classroom activities on our in-person days. I did not expect this, but the masks and ‘hands off’ nature of things makes it harder to get true collaboration and engaged group work. Creating new versions of these lessons took more creativity than virtual learning in many ways,” Mr. Kevin Morse, an AP Science teacher at WHS, said.
Along with difficulties with participation, Mr. Morse, as a specialist in the sciences, has taken great precaution in his classroom when student-driven labs are called into question. “In the sciences, we have had to be very careful and intentional with labs. With the correct precautions, we are still allowed to perform experiments. That said, we are very intentional about what we are doing ... to maximize the learning while minimizing risk,” Mr. Morse said.
With challenges coming from both the live and virtual side of education along with the academic and emotional aspects of students, the question falls to whether or not teachers are feeling an increase in stress during these times.
Temples acknowledges the stress. “I try to not let things ‘over stress’ me as much as I may have when I was a younger teacher. There is added stress because you have a job to do, but you also want to make sure your student's needs are being met,” he said.
For many teachers, these stresses are familiar, even for educators at WHS. One of the key ways that scientists are measuring the spread of the Coronavirus is through the seven day all tests positivity rate, which is taken for each county in Indiana. This rate is a measure of the percentage of all positive COVID-19 tests in a certain area. In fact, with the seven day all tests positivity rate for Hamilton County at 4.26%, many questions could be raised as to the safety of Hamilton County Public Schools (https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/). For Westfield High School teachers; however, there is no doubt that the school is taking the precautions necessary for continued operation.
Morse believes that there is a healthy medium between a return to normalcy and the new safety procedures. "I feel like we are taking good, safe steps. Coming into the year, nobody knew what to expect. Starting and staying in hybrid [A hybrid learning format] is allowing us to learn what is working and what is not working in a more controlled atmosphere. We definitely need to continue to balance the "reward" of extra time in school with the ‘risk’ of additional contact and tracing. That is something that may change throughout the year,” he said.
For all of the possible changes that could occur this school year, one thing is for sure: WHS educators will continue to work through their new struggles and responsibilities, regardless of the challenges ahead.