New approach to school year affects student work

   On March 13, 2020, students and staff were sent home due to the upcoming pandemic, COVID-19. This virus sparked massive panic among the United States and it resulted in the absence from school for a total of 5 months. When school returned in August, students were given the option to attend in person or online. Students going in-person are required to wear masks and only attend four days a week as opposed to five. Online students perform their work at their home.

   This year, Tazewell County Public Schools has implemented the use of Google Classroom to complete work primarily online as opposed to packets of work, which were used last year once students were released from school. Google Classroom is an online learning program in which each teacher makes their own class and posts assignments online for the students to complete. In Google Classroom, teachers and students can communicate with each other by commenting. Students can also communicate with other classmates by posting public comments, which the whole class can see. This handles the common misconception that online workers won’t get any help or feedback from their teachers or peers. This year, students are having to navigate through Google Classroom on their own, and they’re responsible for completing their work on their own.

   “I think the new approach to this school year will affect us all greatly,” Bryce Havens (10) said. “For me specifically, I have an awful memory and tend to procrastinate, so the extra days between classes disrupts me from finishing work in advance. It also affects sports. I run cross country, and it being pushed back to winter is not exactly tantalizing. Overall, I believe this year to be much more challenging than the previous years due to the setup and not a change in curriculum.”

   This school year, students go to school four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Mondays and Thursdays, students attend periods 1-4, and Tuesdays and Fridays, students complete periods 4-7. This year the school day only lasts until 1:00 p.m., and there isn’t time for each class to meet every day. The “extra days” that Havens mentioned are the gap days in going to each class. Since teachers have the same class on different days, the due dates are different for the assignments. This results in confusion among students as to which day their assignments are due.

   “It’s definitely more of a personal problem but the due dates are a lot less clear with two different days, and it makes things a lot more complicated, but not necessarily a bad thing.” Derek Cruise (11) said. 

   Cruise is referring to how on Google Classroom, many teachers say the assignments are due Tuesday or Friday, when for students who have the class on Monday or Thursday, they might be due either Monday or Thursday. “I do think it’s been a little more complicated, but I’m only speaking for myself–I know people who are doing far better than I am at it, and I’m sure the longer we do it, the more comfortable we’ll become.” Cruise said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing because of how much of our daily lives are becoming digital. While that may put some people off, I think it’s a good thing that we get as much practice as we can now before being on our own, even being the generation who grew up alongside technology.”

   Overall, with only two days for each class, there is less time in the classroom, which has affected how many have worked. Wednesdays are distance learning days, where students complete work at home instead of in class to allow for cleaning to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Among the students, some of them find it easier because their teachers haven’t assigned as much since all the work needs to be completed at home.

   “I think the work will get easier because they have not assigned as much as previous years,” Katy Hrovatic (10) said.  “Since we don’t go to school 5 days a week for 7 hours a day, we’re having a lot less work. Also, the teachers understand this is stressful for us too, so they’ve been a lot more lenient about school work.”

   Regarding whether or not the absences throughout the week have affected her work, Hrovatic agreed, saying “we’re missing out on a lot of info and material.”

   Students aren’t the only ones learning their way around Google Classroom.  Teachers find themselves putting in more hours trying to teach both in-person and online.

   “It doubles my work because when I go home, the work comes with me,” Mrs. Nancy Farris, chemistry teacher, said. “I am emailing back and forth. It’s also difficult because we can’t do labs. A lot of hands-on things have been taken away.”

  Mrs. Michelle Hanna, special education teacher, agreed with Mrs. Farris; however, Mrs. Hanna really enjoys using Google Classroom, and thinks it’s affected the school year for the better.

   “It’s affected me a little bit, but we’ve been doing Google Classroom which allows the kids not here to check in and we’ve also been doing Google Meet which allows the students here to see the ones online so that’s a big thing,” Michelle Hanna said.

   After the first six weeks, some students are still having issues navigating through Google classroom, but it will likely get easier when students and teachers become familiar with the new programs.