A View of the Alphabet


Kennedy High School Teachers often find themselves teaching to a seemingly empty remote classroom as students tend to keep their cameras off

COVID-19 has created multiple challenges for the Cedar Rapids community school district. After cutting the 2019-2020 school year short, teachers, administrators and students hoped that a sense of normalcy would return. As a majority of schools in Iowa switch from online to in-person to hybrid, Kennedy high school has been forced to remain online due to the August derecho that destroyed the facility.

The disasters that 2020 brought has made teaching difficult for teachers at John F. Kennedy High school, especially with having to teach their classes online. Teachers have had to relearn how to deliver their material to their students, due to being strictly online until the building is ready on Jan 18. Years of experience teaching in the classroom become irrelevant when facing this new challenge. 

 A majority of Kennedy’s student population made the decision to keep their cameras off during classes. Because cameras are not required to be turned on, classrooms are full of colorful letters in place of focused faces. Students grow tired of the sarcastic comments encouraging them to flip on their camera as teachers grow tired of giving instruction to a responseless screen. 

It makes me so happy, I get overly excited when they turn [their cameras] on. It is such a great feeling to know they are there and care and I am not alone or just talking to myself,” Amanda Finley, art teacher at Kennedy high school, said.

 As of late, these requests fall upon deaf ears. As the school year progressed, the amount of students with their cameras on has decreased to almost zero.

Taylor Whidden, so., believes the reason behind why students have their cameras off is due to their living state. The derecho made houses unlivable and many people had to relocate. Students revealing their homes to their teachers and classmates can be nerve wracking.

“ I think students aren’t turning on their cameras because it could be an invasion of privacy. Students may have crazy homes that they don’t want anyone to see,” Whidden said.

Tammy Miller, consumer science teacher at Kennedy, misses seeing her students’ faces on a daily basis. 

Cameras off makes forming relationships that encourage learning a struggle. I want to know who my students are and I just don’t think that’s realistic staring at colored bubbles all day, “ Miller said.

As teachers attempt to figure out this virtual world, change is constant and jarring. High school teachers are accustomed to crowded, noisy and wonderfully busy classrooms. Miller is learning to deal with these changes, just like the rest of the district.

 “On a personal level, for the first time in my career, I’ve felt lonely at work. Never did I think I would teach high school and feel lonely.”