(Farmington, MN) — The spread of Covid-19 has caused many schools to shut their doors and move education online, including St. Cloud State University. Because of this many reporters and writers at UTVS News are back in their hometowns. I am currently back home in Farmington, Minnesota where the local school district 192 is starting up their online schooling this week.
Some teachers are feeling anxious and stressed about what to do for their students with online learning, like Beth Breiland, one of the High School’s English Teachers and Director of the school’s spring play. She stated that, with online learning, it makes her feel like she’s never taught in a classroom before, even though she has been a teacher for over 20 years, since the meaning of “classroom” is so different during this time. She went on to say that many teacher’s strong suits are being able to read the room and get a feel of what the students need from them as educators. Without having that face to face connection, it takes that element of teaching away and makes it harder to know how students react to different things.
This is especially difficult for classes that are more hands-on, like art, science, and tech-ed. Mark Toutge teaches a Television Broadcast class that is very hands on. The class produces a live show once a week for the whole school to watch. With class being moved online, this makes this more difficult, but his goal is to continue to create a show, just one that is all pre-recorded. Toutge goes on to say that this will be hard for him as a teacher because he is so used to helping his students every step of the way and brings him joy, but this will be a great way for his students to explore their own creativity and learn on their own.
Like most other school districts and educational institutions, Farmington is using apps and programs to help communicate to their students, like Schoology and Zoom. Farmington has been using Schoology for many years leading up to this to send out updates for classes and assign projects, so everyone at FHS is quite familiar with it, making it a more easy transition to online, especially for classes who base their classes around the program, like many of the math classes. With many other schools jumping on to the program and using it more often, on Monday the whole site was having many problems. Toutge said that the site was working “intermittently” and would only work some of the time. He along with Breiland both think problems like these will be resolved in the future. Zoom, however has been working great for many people all over the world and it seems like it doesn’t have any major problems, even though it is gaining a lot more traffic.
As for the students, Breiland said that she created a poll for her students and the results said that many of her students were having struggles with not having school. Some of the students were have trouble sleeping and weren’t getting the proper diet they needed. The main reason behind these struggles was because of a lack of structure to their day. School provides a place not only for learning, but a balanced lunch, a place to go to be social and to be cared for physically, mentally and emotionally by the faculty.
The social aspect of school is a big part of a kids life. Without having class in person, it is hard for students to chat with friends and gain relationship. This doesn’t just come in class, but with extra circulars such as sports, theater, or after school clubs. Many sports at FHS are postponing their seasons to later dates but coaches are still coaching by giving their students different things to practice at home. The spring play is also postponed and Breiland says that her and her cast and crew won’t see the stage together until the end of May at the earliest. The cast is still planning to have “rehearsals” over Zoom calls.
Even though many things are on hold or being postponed, this is a great time for students and teachers alike to come together and figure out a new way of education. This sudden switch to online learning may change the way learning is done forever.