By Aiden McLean ‘21 Reporter
The transition to virtual FCS has been undeniably hard on students. However, it has also created major changes for teachers at FCS. I recently reached out to some teachers to get their opinions on Virtual school thus far. Read on to learn about some of their perspectives.
Focus: How has virtual school been for you so far? What has been working?
Anna: I have been really impressed with our students, just in the sense that this is really hard, and I think people are good about doing all of the things we are asking of them. There are so many different things that different teachers are trying to do and different platforms we are using, and I feel that people are adjusting to it as best they can, so I have been really appreciative of that. I also feel that the students have been really good-natured and understanding about what we are doing, as we recreate school in the span of a couple of days, so that has been wonderful.
Focus: Is there anything you think could improve?
Anna: Things that could improve? I’m thinking the things that I want to see improved are not around academics. I know that a lot of the faculty really want to think about how we can support students outside of just the academic work because that is such an important part of our FCS lives together, the connections that we form. I think that we are really struggling with what is the right way to do that, especially when we have so few meetings a week. I think we all are really missing those touchstones. We’re definitely not going to create more class meetings a week. What we already have is a reasonable ask, but I am hoping that we can figure out better ways to create opportunities for students to engage with each other and for people to have fun together from afar because, otherwise, if we are doing this for another nine more weeks, it’s going to get really boring.
Focus: What do you think has been going well with virtual school?
Ms. Novo: I think that virtual school is a pretty big change in a lot of ways, but it has also brought some more connections and closeness between people because now we are all interacting more individually. I have been responding more to people’s work and getting more emails from people, and having that relationship has been strengthened. I find it interesting to try to figure out, not so much how to share information or content online, I don’t think that is challenging, but how to kind of create community and real discussions, which you do a lot in English classes. It’s been really cool to co-create them with students. Students have much better ideas than I do about what works well for them and what they like or don’t like. We’ve been using Google Chat a lot in some of my classes. So yeah, it’s been definitely challenging, and it’s made me look really back and value the face-to-face interactions that we had. I’m grateful that this happened late in the year, so that there were relationships already established. So it’s definitely challenging because it is new and because the reason why we’re having it is so unsettling. However, I think it’s been really revealing, and I have been so grateful and impressed with how students have stepped up to it.
Focus: Is there anything you think could be improved upon?
Ms. Novo: For virtual school? I think that as we experience it, we are learning a lot more about it, and stuff is getting clearer. I appreciate that there has been a lot of asking for feedback from users, from students and teachers, about what’s working, what their impression is, and then some modification. I think one big thing is less is more. You shouldn’t just try to make your school day happen online, you should really think about what is valuable about your school day, what are the really important things that you don’t want to lose, and then prioritise those. For instance, what we were just talking about in Writers’ Workshop, about what your journals should be about. In a regular time, I would assign a lot of topics for journals, and now I am like, “You should write about whatever it is that you want to write about.” That feels like the most important thing right now.
Aiden McLean: Do you feel like you have more time now that we’re working from home?
Ms. Novo: No, it is actually taking me forever. I’m spending a lot of time kind of trying to figure out how to do this, not just the technology, but conceptually what’s really important in the curriculum. What are the skills we should be developing? What’s the best way to do it? What’s out there in the world? I am also responding a lot more personally to individual students. I always responded pretty individually to [those in] Writers’ Workshop because I write back about the journals, but I am trying to do that in my other classes, too. So, yeah, it’s hard to tell right now. We’ve also been doing grades and comments, so I am expecting it to slow down a little bit. But no, not more time. Sometimes it’s really really busy, and sometimes not so much. I think the rhythm is maybe different. I have been really busy on the weekends because I am trying to think about the whole week for everybody and post what the whole week’s going to be like. Then during the week, it’s maybe a little bit smaller, so maybe it’s that it’s distributed differently.
Focus: Is there anything else you would like to say?
Ms. Novo: I am really curious about how we are going to think about this after it is over. You know, like what are the things that we will maintain and be like, “Yeah, so this was a cool thing we would not have done if we hadn’t been kind of pushed into it, but it really works very well,” and then we’re going to maximise and value what it’s like to be actually physically together.
Focus: What is your take? What’s been going well, what needs improving?
Mr. Kennedy: My take is that mostly I miss my students. I miss being in class with my students. I am enjoying the Zoom or the Google Meet classes. I‘ll say that I am really proud of the students. I think they have done very good work, and I know that they are doing very good work under difficult circumstances, but mostly, from my perspective, teaching is relational, and it’s harder to do relational online. It’s harder to do it digitally, and it’s harder to do it through email and chats. I mean they are working as well as they can, and actually they’re working even better than I thought they were going to, but it’s not the same as being in a classroom with somebody, being able to follow up with them on something, or noticing that somebody is lost and being able to check in with them. Those things are much harder to do now than they were because I am not seeing my students four days out of five, which is what I would be doing.
Focus: Do you feel like you are having more time, less time, or the same as when we were meeting face to face?
Mr. Kennedy: Yeah, that’s a good question. I feel like it’s taking me about the same amount of time to do my job as it was before, it’s just broken up differently. I also will say that sometimes it feels longer. One of the things that students might not know about teachers is that most teachers do this job because they love this job. I do this job because I love it, and what I love most about it is interacting with students. So if I am having less interaction, then it’s a little bit harder to do everything else because I am not getting the reward of having the interactions with the students. That sometimes makes some things seem longer. I’d say the job is taking about the same amount of time, but it’s a little less satisfying because of the lack of interaction.
Focus: Do you have anything else to say?
Bill Kennedy: I guess I’ll say that I’m impressed by how well students are doing, and I really appreciate their willingness to get in there, do this, and try. I think it’s really important for students to have that kind of spirit and that kind of attitude. I think that’s the attitude that teachers are bringing to it as well.