“I prefer seeing my students in person. This has taken a toll on students as well as educators. I do not believe that the mental wellness of everyone involved is being taken into account.”
Gauging the mental wellness of students can be very difficult solely through a computer screen. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, students were known to be distracted by their cell-phones, other students, etc. With educators now working behind a virtual wall students’ attention spans are at risk. According to a 2016 national parent survey analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.4 percent of children are diagnosed with ADHD. Students on the South and West Side of Chicago dealing with these circumstances might not be getting the exact help they need when other things might be taking precedent.
For comparison, there are schools outside of the South and West Side of Chicago that have similar curriculums but implement other practices that may bring a happy medium between in-person and online learning.
North Suburban Middle School language arts teacher Adrienne Handelman (who has previously worked at schools on the South Side such as Williams Prep) explained, “My school is currently doing a hybrid system. Students come to school every day in the morning and stay in one room all day long (with the same students). Students leave before lunch and have their elective classes remotely in the afternoon.”
Handelman’s years of teaching experience with both middle school and high school age students has given her an unique perspective on the current hybrid model which can be seen as something of a privilege for more suburban schools.
“[I] prefer(s) in-person teaching, but there are elements of online teaching that I enjoy. Online teaching has forced me to utilize technology in new ways, and I will continue to use many of the skills and applications that I am using to teach online,” she said.
From the perspective of teachers like Handelman the hybrid model (giving students the option between in person or online learning, and even a mix of both throughout the day) may be beneficial to giving students the best of both worlds as it pertains to students having in-person interaction they need while also keeping everyone safe.
For some suburban schools the hybrid system isn’t just mandatory either, optional learning methods are available.
“Some students are also fully remote 100 percent of the day. I teach those students through Zoom simultaneously with my other students,” said Handelman. “Because of this, I have digitized most elements of my lessons. I was able to get books to students (even the remote students) at the beginning of the year so that we can still do novel study.”
“I think covid has laid bare for many people in the United States some of the serious issues of systemic inequality that schools have been trying to deal with (without much public attention) for too long. I would love to see more investment and concern from the government in increasing the availability of widespread affordable wifi and technology both in schools and in neighborhoods,” stated Handelman.
This isn’t to say that online learning has no benefits as there are positive aspects to the new learning regimine. When asked Gomez replied, “One advantage is the classes are a lot more interactive and require the students to be engaged and participate more.”
Solomon-Auguste echoed a similar sentiment.
“The benefits to online learning can help students prepare for online classes in college. It is also keeping everyone involved safe from spreading the virus and increasing the number of the pandemic.”
Online work has the possibility to help students feel more comfortable asking for help. “I have noticed that some students are more likely to email me with their questions that may have gone unasked in the ‘live’ classroom. I think students are learning to use technology in purposeful ways, and their typing and communications skills are improving,” said Handelman.