Since the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Kern County, the traditional school setting has drastically changed, as in-person teaching halted and distance learning became the new norm. Now, the 2020-2021 school year has begun, and students are forced to remain in distance learning mode with no idea of when in-person class will resume.
While distance learning is optimal for protecting the health of the students and staff, it has posed many challenges for both parties alike.
“We aren’t learning as much as we would if we were in school because we are left to work for the most part by ourselves,” said Rachel Cubangbang, a junior at Cesar E. Chavez High School.
Cubangbang said she has had feelings of laziness and has had a hard time motivating herself to complete daily assignments.
The Delano Joint Union High School District does not require students to turn on their cameras during instruction, which forces students to hold themselves accountable and direct their attention to their teachers during class time. However, students have a difficult time finding a distraction-free workspace.
“I feel as if I am not paying enough attention as I should be during class because I keep getting distracted by my surroundings,” said Cubangbang.
Distance learning has also made it hard for students to develop good student-teacher relationships and has forced students to deal with mental health issues.
“There is a general concern teachers have for the students about how well they are adjusting to distance learning,” said Jacob Ortiz, an English teacher at Cesar E. Chavez High School. “Students are used to interacting and engaging with so many other people, but now it has shrunk down to how many people are in their homes.”
However, some students, such as Evans and Cubangbang, believe distance learning has improved their mental health because they have more free time to themselves where they can engage in activities they enjoy.
“School is stressful no matter what,” Evans said. “Even in distance learning, you still have multiple assignments to complete and tests to study for. Personally, my stress levels have remained the same.”
Additionally, high school sports were pushed back due to CDC guidelines. Madison Evans, a junior at Cesar E. Chavez was disheartened after this news had been pushed back.
“Because I have been participating in sports from a young age, it feels weird not being able to do them this year,” she claimed.
Along with students, teachers have felt their fair share of disadvantages because of distance learning.
“I am not able to provide my individual attention to each of my students to check for understanding,” said Ortiz.
One of Ortiz’s teaching strategies is maintaining constant communication with his students to help them grow and succeed in his classroom; however, it has become more difficult to implement this strategy because of the current digital classroom.
Ortiz said distance learning is a “one-size fits all” strategy, which is why it has become difficult to cater to each student’s needs. Since the only form of communication is through text messages and emails, original ideas and meanings become lost in translation, which raises concerns about the viability of teacher-student relationships.
Despite the challenges, many students have looked to the positives in this situation. Students are able to easily access their classwork from the comforts of their home.
“Since there are only three classes per day, it has become easier to manage classes, and I am able to work at my own pace,” said Cubangbang.
Students are also able to wake up at a later time, providing them with more rest to be more productive later in the day. Students have been forced to improve their time management and organizational skills to adapt to the virtual classroom, which will be very beneficial in the future.
Teachers have also had to adjust to virtual education. Ortiz said he will begin recording his classes even when the traditional school setting resumes because it will be helpful for students who have missed class and will be helpful for “students to look at back videos and absorb what they did not quite comprehend. It will serve as a beneficial refresher.”
While students and teachers continue to adjust to distance learning, it is vital to keep positivity levels up as students, teachers and parents overcome these new obstacles.
Ortiz provided this helpful advice to students: “As difficult as it is to learn virtually, what is important is that once you recognize you have gone through this and find a way to be successful, what is going to stop you?”