Communication is key

Digital learning is easier when students reach out

Andrea Schommer

School during a pandemic is not something any of us planned or prepared for. How could we? Last March most of us were living life like normal and within a week everything shut down and we began quarantine.

This year, everyone says, “We are all learning.” Meaning, teachers and students alike need feedback from each other to hopefully make life a little easier on everyone. This time is stressful and difficult for both students and teachers. One easy way to relieve some stress is better communication.

“We are all learning,” said Angela Kowaleski, a new science teacher at Bay Port High School. “Technology is the biggest hurdle and when we think we have a good grasp on it,  something goes wrong. We all just need to be flexible with each other.”

Kowaleski is teaching Chemistry and IB Biology this year. She has noticed a big difference between the communication from her IB Biology students compared to her Chemistry students.

“My IB students are reaching out and I think that is because I have spent A block and some of B block with them. My Chemistry students, which I have only had for a week or so, are not reaching out,” Kowaleski said.

Sara Shefchik, a math teacher, is experiencing similar things with her students. Since going all virtual, none of her students show their faces.

“I don’t know when my students are struggling anymore because I can’t see them,” said Shefchik. “Because of that, it’s harder to help them, so it is really important for students to reach out to their teachers when they need something.”

Senior Olivia D’souza is taking all AP or IB classes except band. She has always been a student who reaches out and this year, she thinks she has found a communication method that works well for her.

“I found that emailing my teachers works best to communicate with them,” Olivia said. “Most teachers check their emails multiple times a day, so I find that I get the quickest response that way.”

Senior Connor Atkinson is in regular level classes and has never been the type of student to email his teachers when he is having issues.

“I don’t usually tell my teachers when I am struggling or feeling like I am falling behind. I usually just think ‘it is what it is,’” Connor said.

Because of how COVID has changed this school year, teachers are getting an influx of emails every day. Teachers might not get back to some students in as timely of a manner as imagined which is very stressful for some students.

Connor has issues with the time it takes his teachers to respond to his emails. 

“I wish my teachers would respond to their emails more often,” he said.

Shefchik has been having students email her about confusion or needed help since the first day of school, and she has a little advice for students who are struggling with the timeliness of responses this year.

“My advice to students would be to be patient with your teachers. We try our best to get back to students emails, but I get about 50 emails a day and on top of working, that’s a lot to get through,” she said. “This year I’ve been telling my students that I will give them grace if they give me grace.”

From a teacher’s perspective, something difficult this year is when students log into Zoom for class and do not turn their cameras on or engage in the lesson at all.

“It is really hard to teach to a bunch of pictures on my computer screen,” Kowaleski said. “We are human and we want to respond to our students’ facial expressions, but when I can’t see my students, I don’t always know how to respond.”

Teachers understand the reasons for not turning on the camera in Zoom or the technological issues that come with engaging in those types of ways. However, it would be easier for them if there was some way students would engage in class rather than sitting hidden, staring at their computer screen.

“I don’t blame anyone for not turning their mics or cameras on, I get it. But I would encourage students to be the one in class to turn on their camera,” Shefchik said. “It makes teaching virtually a whole lot easier and makes the teachers happy.”

Olivia has heard many of her teachers talk about how hard teaching this year is so she tries to be the one to turn her camera on, even if nobody else does. She also found that it helps her in the class.

“I turn on my camera for every class just because it forces me to stay engaged, and I know it makes my teachers’ job easier,” Olivia said. “Sometimes I am the only one with my camera on, but I think it’s good just to show the teachers that you are focused on the lesson.”

This school year has been a whirlwind and the best way to solve issues is to communicate with one another. 

“I really think that communication, especially this year, is the key to success,” Kowaleski said. “Students have to communicate with their teachers, but us teachers also have to communicate with our students.”