Teachers face distance learning challenges

Timothy Leonard

Teachers face distance learning challenges

By Kaila Mellos

Scripps Ranch public schools, like many all over the county, have been moved to only online learning platforms as San Diego remains in the purple tier. All schools are still learning how to make this work for their teachers and students.

“It has absolutely changed my perspective,” said Timothy Leonard, a Scripps Ranch High School English teacher. “I’ve been more or less utilizing the same fundamental aspects of teaching for 13 years now: my presence, my voice and tactile engagement. Now, however, I feel like both hands are tied behind my back.”

The online learning platform has not been the easiest to adjust for everyone, including the teachers who are using it to engage their students. 

According to Zoom, daily meeting participants’ usage shot up from around 10 million in December 2019 to more than 300 million people in April 2020. The use of online platforms, like Zoom, to teach, has helped this number rise. However, it has cut out the connections in-person teaching can create between other students and the teachers.

Andrea Bowers

“The learning environment is a lot quieter. This is not a good thing, in my mind,” said Andrea Bowers, a Scripps Ranch High School English teacher. “Before, I could tell students were thinking about what we were doing because I could hear their conversations. Now when I join a breakout room, it is awkwardly quiet when I pop in.”

The online platforms create solitude for the students and make it hard to retain information and pay attention during classes.

“In many ways, it is harder to keep the students’attention on the lessons,” said Casey Nakanishi, a fourth-grade teacher at Ellen Browning Scripps Elementary School. “We have lots of interruptions with rogue (and not so rogue) pets, baby siblings and life at home.”

For teachers and students, it has been challenging to grow used to this setting. Some students have lost the motivation to continue with school during this time because it seems hard to imagine what will happen after this time. Students’ mental health has also become a concern for teachers and schools.

“Our counseling department and school psychologist has a Zoom conference with those that are struggling,” Bowers said. 

Casey Nakanishi

“We still have a school counselor available on an appointment basis when needed,” Nakanishi added. “We have also started teaching SEL (Social Emotional Learning) lessons once a week that center around acknowledging your feelings and what you can do with them.”

It has been a challenge for kids in all grade levels to adapt to the new way to continue learning, some more than others. There are many steps to take before it can be back to the way it was pre-COVID.