On August 31, Churchill County School District started the new school year in a way they never anticipated before.
Students and teachers alike walked to their classrooms with masks - and as one elementary teacher put it at E.C. Best Elementary – airplane wings a part. Kids waiting for a bus with their arms spread out to separate each other, and teachers passing around hand sanitizer is the new normal. There is much discussion about how students are handling the new schedule, and if they are actually focusing in schools when they cannot see anyone’s faces. Especially for high school students, how will they prepare for life in college under these conditions?
I observed three classes at Churchill County High School, and my worries for students was immediately relieved.
Teachers understand that this is a difficult year for students because it is a difficult year for them as well. Packing 18 weeks' worth of material into six weeks is not an easy feat. But because both the students and teachers are dealing with unprecedented times – the camaraderie in the student and teacher relationship has grown.
The teachers opened their classes off the bat with a comforting monologue I never remembered getting from teachers at that age.
A history teacher told his tiny class of three students, “It’s going to be tough, but we’re not going to force feed the material. We’re going to do what we can and learn more from discussing and analyzing, rather than reading hundreds of pages a night.”
When I spoke to him after his class, he said he wasn’t sure if this system would last. “They may have to go back to online again if something happens, and it’ll be just like last March all over again.”
In the science department, where classes rely on tactile learning in labs, the teacher comforted students immediately.
“How are you, really? Because I’m frustrated that I cannot see your faces and have more personable interactions with you. But this is the way it has to be. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
Asking a student how they truly feel seems to be something lost on some instructors in higher education. It has taken a global pandemic for them to care about the well-being of their students again.
As a child, I attended West End Elementary, Churchill County Jr. High, and Churchill County High School in the beginning of my education, and I found teachers who wanted to see my success and helped me get to my best self today. But I also had experiences that prepared me to be efficient at taking a test, rather than preparing me for what the test was actually about.
Some parents may say that this new connection students and teachers have by both being in a seemingly unfortunate situation, makes the students too soft and unable to handle their higher education at a college, trade school or wherever they may go. I disagree.
If more teachers were like the ones I observed, and shared with their students that they too don’t know how to handle school in a pandemic, maybe students would feel more safe.
And to the students -- although I doubt you have time to see this with your studies being crammed into half the time as usual – believe these teachers. I know that on the first day of school there are always rousing speeches to motivate our learning and encourage us to become molded for society. Then, by week three you’re drowning in homework and didn’t realize you had a paper due by Friday.
But this time, I think the teachers really mean it. Their lives are to mold young minds, and inspire you to learn on your own. That is really hard to do when their words are muffled by a mask. Try your hardest, but respect the fact that teachers around the country are trying their hardest too.
If there is nothing else I experienced that should put students and parents at ease, it is that teachers are trying their darndest to do what is best for their students. Teachers are getting the students where they need to be in life. Teachers need to be praised more often, and sometimes asked how their doing in school during this time – not just the kids.
Missing my friend Leo 💜