Nanuet Teachers Discuss Distance Learning

Trisha Yu and Owen Whelan, Reporters

During this strange and difficult time, schools have been using online instruction in order to guide their students. Teachers and students alike have and will face many upcoming challenges involved with online learning, but it is worth remembering that this is a new and difficult learning process for everyone. Some teachers in the Nanuet High School have shared their thoughts regarding this new experience.

Many teachers have found both advantages and disadvantages in online teaching as opposed to normal instruction, and have been discovering many new methods of distance teaching. “It is always good to learn something new,” says Ms. Hudak, “especially if it is out of your comfort zone.”

Online learning allows students to work on their own time, especially now with the addition of “flexible Fridays”, and without the many online resources used by the school many students would be falling behind. If only a paper packet had been distributed in preparation for closure, there may not have been sufficient material for students during this crucial moment in their education.
While beneficial for students and teachers when needed, online learning has flaws; as stated by Mr. Kersting, “It can’t replace human interaction. You can’t see facial expression or body language on digital activities and resources. Even Zoom doesn’t meet that personal need, but it does help seeing each other.”

Similarly, many teachers have noted how it is more difficult for students to schedule their day efficiently and healthily since being out of school has thrown off many people’s normal sleep schedules. For example, math teacher Ms. Panker said, “Many are working in the middle of the night probably because they are sleeping much later. Their body clocks are way off. This makes it difficult for the teachers when scheduling real time learning (ZOOM) with the students. Many students are not attending these lessons.”

In addition to this, Mr. Miller states how, “It [online learning/teaching] is very different. There are ‘no teachable moments.’” The majority of teachers have noted that online learning is much less personal, since it is much harder to see the reactions and faces of the students, and generally much less extra discussion occurs over email or calls compared to in a classroom setting. It is very clear that many teachers and students miss the human interaction that occurred among their peers. Mr. Miller describes how he misses the “little conversations” about the students’ lives, and how online learning is very “in-personable.”

Teachers and students have done their best to adapt to the current situations, and many people are familiarizing themselves with Zoom, Google Classroom, Barron’s Regents, online videos, and other resources. Many of these resources have been used in the past, but now both teachers and students can explore new ways in which these resources can be best utilized as a learning tool. Online learning has its benefits of allowing students to continue their education even while social distancing, but many of the staff members have expressed how much they wish to return to school and normal instruction.

Some teachers have offered valuable advice to their students for how to best deal with the current situation. For example, science teacher Mrs. Hudak said, “Get outside! Get fresh air and exercise! And talk to someone when negative feelings start building up inside. Make sure you are checking in daily to your google classrooms so you don’t get behind. Try not to work in front of the computer for too long… Ask for help or an extension if you are feeling overwhelmed. Make sure you are communicating with your teachers if you do get behind.”

Similarly, technology teacher Mr. Rogers said, “Create a schedule. A schedule provides structure and that will help you be productive day in and day out. Include in that schedule school time, meals, hygiene, entertainment, physical activity and sleep. Hygiene sounds silly but when you clean yourself up it will motivate you to get things done!”

Other teachers recommend treating at-home learning the same as one would with a school day, meaning having the same sleep schedule, doing schoolwork at the time the particular occurs, and staying on-task while still having the time to take needed breaks and stay connected to friends.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rogers said, “Becoming accustomed to distant learning will be useful in their future. Many college courses are completed either solely or at least partially online. Distance learning also creates more independent learning experiences which will become useful in the students future as well. Students will become better at teaching themselves and learning on their own.” Perhaps this period of online learning will help give rise to something later in the future of education!

Finally, the staff members have shared some of their own interesting thoughts. “Structure has helped our family feel a sense of accomplishment,” says Ms. Hirsch, one of the guidance counselors. “Ironically, now my son would do anything to be back at school and his sisters are completely on his nerves!”

Mr. Danahy said in an email “I believe the social isolation allows all of us to reflect on personal goals. After all the COVID-19 news and fear is put aside, the time spent at home allows an opportunity to work towards self improvement with greater purpose.”

Overall, everyone is still learning and adapting to many of these new circumstances and trying their best to stay productive and encouraged. It is important to remember that all students and teachers are in this together! Stay connected to your peers and teachers, as the connection between members of our Nanuet community is sure to have many virtues, especially now.