Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, schools have shut down and switched to distance learning. This was a sudden change, and many students have had difficulties adapting because they are used to going to school physically, not virtually. However, we are unsure when schools are going to reopen so it is clear that we could be online for a while
Which Do You Prefer?
After experiencing distance learning for over a month, many students at Miami High have grown to like online school more than traditional school. Senior Amanda Fernandez said, “It is easier and less stressful for me since I’m a senior with no real difficult classes. I get to finish all my work even faster than writing it on paper. Also, the factor of presenting something or participating out loud in class— which can be anxiety-producing for some people— is out of the picture.”
Junior Nathalie Saladrigas agrees. “Due to the ease of technology,” she said, “I find it more comfortable to stay online. I know that traditional school offers a person with so much, such as interacting with others and collaborative experience; however, I prefer online school because I’ve been more focused on how I’m feeling mentally, and am able to manage my time without feeling extremely overwhelmed by everything.”
However, many students at Miami High rather be in a classroom than continue their schooling online. Junior Kiana Ramirez said, “I can’t focus on a screen since I’ve struggled with bad eyesight, and having to work from a screen has increased my stress levels and my headaches.”
Sophomore Angie Diaz feels more motivated in a physical classroom. She said, “I find it easier to remember/ learn difficult materials from teachers face-to-face. I think the biggest downside of online school for me is that I no longer get pushed out of my comfort zone. I’m a very shy person, but sometimes in class my teachers push me to speak my mind and that’s important in developing interpersonal communication.”
Online Difficulties and Benefits
The sudden change to online schooling has brought difficulties to many Miami High students. Junior Anthony Lara said, “Time management has been an issue that I’ve faced with online school. Some teachers have been giving excessive loads of work, and sometimes they assign work on days when they aren’t supposed to, or a day before it’s due.”
Angie Diaz said, “I’m now working longer than I would in traditional school. I’m sitting at my desk from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Also, it feels like doing pre-calculus work is an option, but it’s not. I completely forget to do any assignments for the class; consequently, I fell behind in the class and my grade dropped.”
Sophomore Melissa Elmhorst said, “I do not have as easy access to my teachers. During traditional school, I was able to ask my teachers anything and anytime, but with online school, teachers are so overwhelmed and confused, that they simply do not have the time to respond to all student commentary.”
Despite the difficulties, there are some benefits to online school. Kiana Ramirez said, “I have been able to take self-care seriously; traditional brick and mortar school was time-consuming and stressful. Most of my friends and I are used to running on a few hours of sleep every week, not to mention Saturday school, tutoring, homework, tests. There was never time to focus on our health. I used to skip doctor’s appointments because I couldn’t afford missing class. I feel that now more than ever I have the chance to focus on my well-being before being consumed by school.”
Junior Wilfredo Barrera said, “I have been able to bring my grades up, I’m free to listen to music while I work, and I can communicate with my friends without a teacher nagging at me.”
Senior Mario Alvarez said, “I feel as if I can work at my own pace now, and it has slightly alleviated the pressure of regular school.”
The New Teaching Style
Many teachers are trained to teach their students physically. Many are not used to teaching virtually and face many difficulties. Chorus teacher Ms. Cid said, “After taking the time to nurture and build up a choral program that just 4 years ago when I got to Miami High was non-existent, it has been difficult to keep the students morale up and give them that ‘choir family’ feeling that we had when we were back in school. Although students are doing the work and putting in the time to better themselves, I don’t want them to lose feelings of camaraderie that we worked so hard to build in the choral classroom, so that next school year can still continue on the great path we left off on this year.”
English teacher Ms. Zamora said, “Student engagement and accountability are particularly challenging during this time. Many students aren’t used to being accountable for their studies. They rely on teacher reminders and multiple opportunities to get things done under normal circumstances, so keeping up with things on their own is overwhelming a lot of them. The fact that the district publicly stated that students would be able to submit late work doesn’t help either. It will inevitably result in a massive influx of last minute (possibly copied) submissions the last week before the term. I understand that we are working through a crisis that is affecting families differently, and affecting our most vulnerable students disproportionately, and I check in with my kids every week to make sure that they and their families are OK. I take their responses into account when excusing assignments; however, I find that more often than not, students are taking advantage of the situation and turning in subpar work, cheating, or not completing work at all. What is interesting is that my AP kids have not missed a beat. Nearly all of them have been consistently attending Zoom sessions, turning in work and even attending one-on-one writing conferences.”
How Are You Teaching Now?
Teachers had to switch their teaching style quickly in a week, to prepare for the switch to online school. Many teachers had tried to continue their activities to provide a feeling of normality for their students. AP Psychology and History teacher Mr. Norori said, “I am meeting with my students virtually on Google Classroom. I have been meeting with them 3 days a week for an hour and half. I also upload assignments and videos to Edmodo.”
Computer science teacher Mr. Jara said, “I am providing them assignments through Google Classroom and hosting office hours through Google Meets.”
Ms. Zamora said, “I am providing all of my students with weekly overviews of their expectations, assignments with clear directions and extended deadlines (for example, I post assignments every Monday, and they are due on Fridays). I am available to answer student questions beyond office hours, often addressing student concerns into the late evenings.
I am holding weekly Zoom sessions with my AP Lang students where we discuss content, and I am holding Zoom writing conferences with them individually to help improve their writing. I find that more students are attending digital writing conferences now than when we were in physical school.”
During school, teachers see their students two-three times a week since Miami High follows a block-schedule. Teachers are required to follow the schedule to prevent assigning work every day. According to students at Miami High, many teachers have continued to stay consistent or became more lenient with their assignments. Junior Ashley Martinez said, “I think the workload in distance learning is less than traditional school because a lot of my teachers are being considerate enough to extend due dates.”
Amanda Fernandez said, “My teachers have been more lenient, and instead of assigning something that is due that day, like how they would make us do in class, we get to turn it in by the end of the school week. I only get about 3 easy assignments that I have to complete each week.”
Wilfredo Barrera said, “My teachers either just give less work, or give slimmed down versions of our usual assignments. For example, my U.S. History teacher Mr. Hampton has decided to just give us a 12 question quiz now instead of the usual quiz and vocabulary words.”
Mr. Norori believes that he has managed the same approach to assignments for online distance learning compared to traditional learning. He said, “I am assigning students the same amount of work that they would have received in class and also covering the same material. I believe this is a time for students to continue learning but not to feel overwhelmed with work.”
Ms. Cid said, “My assignments are very consistent to what I was already doing in my traditional classroom. All my students have weekly sight-reading assignments that they must complete, which is in correlation to what they already do traditionally. The only thing that is different is the weekly theory assignments using an online program called Breezin’ Thru Theory that reviews the things I have already taught within the class. Students in chorus will have 2 sight-reading assignments and 1 theory assignment weekly. Everything else is just extra credit.”
Many exams have been cancelled as a result of the pandemic; however, Advanced Placement exams are continuing. This year, the AP exams have been modified as a result of the pandemic; consequently, the format is different from the past, so AP teachers have to teach their students the new format.
Mr. Norori said, “My biggest stress of teaching an AP class online is stressing the importance of plagiarism. The AP Exams will be held online this year and the students will be able to take them at home with ‘open notes/open book.’ This can be more of a detriment than a blessing because it is tempting to use answers found on the internet or in textbooks. Plagiarism and cheating will bring heavy penalties from the College Board. I try to deter the students from doing so, but there is no possible way of preventing it from a distance. I can only remind them of the consequences.”
Mr. Jara, who teaches AP Computer Science Principles, said, “Thankfully, AP Computer Science Principles students are only being evaluated on their portfolios. I provided them plenty of time through the year to work on their performance task (videos on a computing innovation and an app of their own design), and they all have drafts up on College Board’s (CB) Digital Portfolio.”
Ms. Zamora said, “Inevitably, this exam will not be able to assess the scope of the skills that are addressed within the course, but for a 45-minute condensed exam, I think the choice of question type selected by CB is the best option given the circumstances. I’ve been exposing my students to as many writing opportunities as possible and providing one-on-one conferencing as well as whole-group reviews via Zoom. My students have been working diligently during these trying times, and I expect them to do well on exam day, but ultimately, their success in my class extends far beyond the confines of a 45-minute essay on a random day in May. I am so proud of all of my AP kids, regardless of how they test.”
Missing Traditional School
Parts of traditional school can not be found through online school. Many students at Miami High miss different things about traditional school. Kiana Ramirez said, “The thing I miss the most has to be the second family I have built these three years. My friends have become my family, and being away from them is really hard because you grow to love the time you spend with them regardless if it’s in a hard class or lunch or at home.”
Nathalie Saladrigas said, “I oddly miss tutoring. Being able to interact with the teacher in real life is so beneficial.”
Melissa Elmhorst said, “I miss my teachers the most. Any day, good or bad, my teachers could always make the day better. Their natural charisma, joy, and happy energy always made me believe in myself and leave my self-doubts behind me. I also miss my friends very dearly. As an only child with two working parents, it gets pretty lonely during the day.”
Shout-out for Excellent On-line Instruction:
Senior Amanda Fernandez: I want to recognize Mr.Jimenez’s Creative Writing class for we have Zoom meetings so that he can properly explain our next topic, and he tries his best to provide us with movies and videos that we need to watch to get a better idea for the next project: movie scripting.
Junior Ashley Martinez: I am extraordinarily grateful for Dr. DeNight’s help and patience on assignments because it could be confusing understanding what he is asking for.
Junior Nathalie Saladrigas: I want to recognize Ms. Wong– who teaches Ap Statistics– and Ms. Zamora– who teaches AP English Language– for having weekly conferences and are always willing to help.
Junior Kiana Ramirez: Mr. Norori has been an amazing online instructor, he provides his students a much needed consistency and understanding for the situation we’re all going through; he keeps our spirits up despite the circumstances and all of us love and appreciate him for the hard work.
Sophomore Melissa Elmhorst: I would like to recognize Ms. Berrios, my Honors English teacher, for her highly effective teacher because she knows how to use technology, how to reach her students and how to keep us doing our work.
Sophomore Angie Diaz: Dr. Hueck and Ms. Munguia have been excellent on-line instructors for Ap Chemistry, as they are always reaching out and they are doing the most to prepare for the AP test.