WHS adapts to a new way of learning and teaching

Screen+grab+of+a+live+brainstorming+session+with+Hi%27s+Eye

Photo by Shawn McDonald

Screen grab of a live brainstorming session with Hi’s Eye

Claudia Millwater and Morgan Boll

On March 13, all WHS staff and students were informed that online instruction would begin on March 17 until further notice, due to the current coronavirus outbreak. Given the abrupt notice, teachers were not given a lot of time to prepare for further lesson plans or adjust to remote learning. Along with teachers, students scrambled to gather all their work and belongings with the anxiety of not knowing when they would be back again.. 

Teachers began printing packets, handing out books and educating students on the shift in curriculum due to the lack of guidance each student would be receiving on a daily basis. Along with the lack of guidance, the typical WHS schedule of having periods one through nine every day would be shifting to block scheduling, giving students and teachers a specific time slot to meet for their designated class. This version of block scheduling allows for classes to meet twice a week. There are designated times where teachers will be available on email for questions students may have. However, WHS teachers are each doing their own way of teaching from home; some are doing live streams, and others are only posting on Google Classroom. 

 Brynne Burke, a junior at WHS, likes this new schedule. “I like how I can spend as much time as I need [on homework] in one class if I need it,” she explained.  Block scheduling allows for an extended amount of time for homework and other assignments to be completed due to the time between each designated period.

 The goal for all teachers was to make this transition as easy as possible knowing that it would be an adjustment for not only the students, but the teachers, staff members and parents as well. 

Teachers are handling remote teaching well, considering the short amount of time they had to figure out how to present their curriculum to their students. WHS Principal Mary Asfendis said, “This has been a learning process for [teachers]. They have been working to understand new technology platforms to ensure that students are able to continue with the curriculum.” 

WHS Science Teacher Christopher Tafelski explained how his transition to online teaching has been pretty smooth. “I didn’t want to do anything fancy,” said Tafelski. “I figured that in a time of uncertainty, throwing a bunch of brand-new things at kids would make a tough situation tougher. So I continued to use Google Classroom in pretty much the same way I always have.”

Most teachers are trying to be as flexible and understanding as possible. WHS sophomore Lydia Murray said, “[My] Teachers are always available to help when I don’t understand something, and they are flexible with due dates.”

WHS Spanish Teacher Jill Mezzacappa has been helping her students as much as possible by giving them work that looks familiar to what they have done in class before in hopes that it, “reduces some anxiety [students] are experiencing.”

Some teachers at WHS are using other platforms such as Google Hangout, Google Meet, Zoom and WebEx as a way to engage with their classes. These platforms give each student the ability to interact with their classmates as well as their teachers by being able to communicate via video chat. “I have used Google Meet primarily to maintain the social part of school,” Tafelski said. “I use the Google Meets for everyone to see each other and say hi, crack some jokes and talk briefly about what the next assignment is going to look like.”

Many students enjoy the video chat interactions online; however, it is not the same as being in school. The lack of communication with classmates and the inability to interact with teachers in person is making the transition even harder. “the toughest part is just not being able to see your friends going through the hallway and those little moments in class that people always remember laughing about,” said WHS senior John Czarnecki. 

Academic classes are able to use resources like Google Classroom to post work; however elective courses are especially tough to teach from home. One elective in particular, band, is having a tough time rehearsing together. “Most classes you can just do makeup work at home, but with band there’s an entire ensemble that is present within every single piece,” Czarnecki said.