Home studying: College students, teachers getting used to education during quarantine | COVID-19
TRAVERSE CITY – The quarantine.
Cheryl Smith’s Spanish class students became familiar with this word both in and out of the classroom throughout the school year.
Smith, who teaches foreign languages at Benzie Central High School, completed a five-day stretch with 14 of her students in La Cuarentena last week – quarantine – due to exposure to COVID-19.
Benzie High School officials have confirmed 28 school-related cases in the high school since September, 22 of which were high school students. Superintendent Amiee Erfourth said last week 160 students had been quarantined since the start of the school year, but none of them tested positive for the virus.
Despite this trend, every exposed student faces a 7-10 day prison sentence in their home from the time of exposure. That means teachers like Smith have to do the double duty of working with the students in person and the others signing up virtually.
Teaching this way takes a lot of extra preparation, but “that’s the job,” said Smith.
“We had to make it work,” she said. “And it has worked so far – as much as it can.”
However, the disadvantages remain.
Smith is not a teacher sitting at her desk. Your relationship with the Spanish language and its students is much more than just a lecture.
Spanish is energetic. The words pop. The pronunciation is rolling. There is movement. Sitting in front of a webcam takes away this movement.
“I feel chained to my desk,” she said. “I’ve learned so much in the last year, but I’m a 25 year old veteran teacher and this has been the toughest year of my life as a teacher.”
It is very difficult to keep virtual students from straying from the right path at times – very difficult.
Students in the class often absorb the energy of Spanish and be with their classmates. For those stuck at home walking into a Google Meet breakout room, Smith said it was awkward and students didn’t want it.
“Teens are great at talking about any topic they want in class,” she said. “But put them in front of a computer where they have to talk to each other on a screen, they kind of go silent.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adjusted their guidelines in December to reduce the quarantine period from two weeks to 7-10 days. CDC officials said they had reduced the isolation time required, as most infected people showed symptoms by day five and 97 percent did so by day 11.
The most common COVID-19 symptoms are far less common in children than in adults. Because of this, the CDC said that symptom-based quarantines are “less likely to capture infections in children” and daily quarantines are more likely to keep healthy students at home.
Grace Critchfield had her first contact with quarantine life two weeks ago. The Traverse City Central High School senior is one of the few in her group of friends who has not lived at home for so long after being exposed to COVID-19.
Learning from home is not an easy task for Critchfield or her teachers. Teachers are pretty thinly scattered between personal lessons and changing lessons for quarantined students – and that doesn’t come without consequences.
Online learning is vastly different from all of the training being virtual, in that the first semester together spent more than two full months at Central and Traverse City West Senior High Schools. Back then, all students logged into Google Meet in the morning and prepared for a day looking at a computer screen.
Quarantine days aren’t much different than sick days, Critchfield said. Students check Google Classroom to see what they missed and email their teacher.
“Sometimes they react immediately and sometimes in two days,” Critchfield said. “That’s the frustrating part. You don’t feel sick. You don’t have a fever. You have to stay home because someone else was sick. “
The frustration has not gone unnoticed by adults and educators alike.
Shaina Biller, assistant superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools, echoed Smith’s comments, saying the education has never been so difficult – for both teachers and students.
Although a student may only be away for a few days to a week, according to Biller, teachers always check their students’ mental well-being during the quarantine. The aim is to maintain the student-teacher connection.
“It can be alienating (quarantined),” said Biller. “One minute you’ll be in school and the next you get this call from the health department and you have to stay home.”
Parents have a weakness for their quarantined children, but the teachers who jump through the hoops to raise their children have given them a weakness too.
Rachel Sheppard’s eighth grade son, who is attending Traverse City West Middle School, missed four days of face-to-face tuition after being notified of an exposure five days earlier. Sheppard had the luxury of being at home to guide her son through some of his lessons – with the exception of math, which required the teacher’s skill.
Sheppard said her son likely has some gaps in his education after leaving school, just like most students do when they are sick for several days. Sheppard said the last time any of her children missed such a large part of school was during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, so she knows it will have some catching up to do.
However, Sheppard is unsure whether the responsibility rests on the teachers’ shoulders.
“Asking the teachers to do something else they’ll just go mad,” she said. ‘Now we want you to do this, this and that.’ We can’t do that to them. “
TCAPS does not require students to take virtual classes while they are in quarantine, Biller said. Instead, the district uses Brightspace, a single point of contact for students, to access lessons, assignments, tests, resources, and an overview of the week’s activities.
Days in quarantine are treated as if the student were sick. This means that he will not be penalized for missing assignments and given the time necessary to catch up on the work.
“Teachers don’t want their students to be negatively affected by something we have no control over,” said Biller. “It was exhausting for everyone.”