Teachers Adapting to Online

Claire Beaman, Writer

Cedar Rapids High schools have been forced into remote learning since the beginning of the school year. Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, middle schools and elementary schools switched to online learning on Nov. 12. Learning at home has proven to be difficult, and teachers are feeling the stress as well.  

Chelsea Larson has been teaching first grade for three years, and this is her first year at Viola Gibson. The news of switching online was sudden, with a thirty-six hours notice she had to transform her entire lesson plan to fit the online format. She, however, felt that both herself and her young students were prepared. 

“Luckily we all knew what kind of year this would be, and so I have honestly been preparing my kids since the first day of school,” Larsen said. “When we found out we were going virtual, on that last day in person I did my entire morning virtual so that the kids had experience using it.”

Larsen used the limited notice and prepared her students for the coming change. This advanced planning smoothed the transition and eased the worries from parents. Larsen received emails from satisfied parents who were surprised at their childrens’ level of readiness. 

High school students had more time to prepare. They have experience with technology and teachers had three weeks to prepare for online classes. Nevertheless, it was a tough transition for everybody. 

“It was a huge learning curve in the beginning. I had these huge, long checklists when we first started,” Leah Howard, Language Arts teacher at Kennedy High School, said. “I need to do this, this, this, to run class, but now I feel like I’ve kind of gotten good where I know what buttons to click and it’s become more automatic.”

Elementary and middle schools have yet again gone back to in-person learning as of Dec. 7. 

“I’m so excited to be able to be in the classroom to teach them because I feel like that instruction is so key, the face to face, the immediate feedback. I just hope we’re able to stay in school and that we’re able to have consistency for the kids,” Larsen said.

These times are still uncertain, and it’s quite possible that schools will have to switch to online again should COVID cases increase.

“I  feel like it’s the year of ‘we don’t plan too far ahead, we just go day by day’,” Larsen said. 

Kennedy High school students recently learned that they have the opportunity to return to the building for school on Jan. 19. 

“School is a place for learning, and I think that will put students back into ‘school-mode,’” Howard said. 

Teachers and students understand the benefits that in-person learning provides. However, just because the derecho repairs are complete, the pandemic continues to be a serious threat.

“Even though the reason we were online was because of the derecho, we still have this other national emergency of the COVID pandemic going on,” Howard said. “I’m nervous for my students and colleagues that will be back in the building. I’m hopeful that people will follow COVID protocols with masking and social distancing and that we will have plans in place that will keep people safe.”

Kennedy has an advantage. As other schools in the CRCDS return to their buildings, Kennedy stays remote as repairs are complete, learning from other schools with experience.

“When we came back to school after virtual, I had to take time to rebuild stamina and teach routines and procedures. We were not able to jump back in right away and start where we left off,” Larsen said. 

While teachers are trying to remain hopeful in these trying times, there are still a lot of fears.

“My worst fear as a teacher is that I will lose one of my colleagues to COVID,” Howard said. “Because while younger kids might be okay, although there have been some kids who have had major consequences, it’s mostly been adults who have had the long-lasting COVID syndrome or have passed away from COVID.”