School will go on regardless of the pandemic

Remote learning has its benefits and challenges for both students and teachers

By Esmee Halsted

The United States in the midst of the coronavirus. Schools are responding by shutting down schools all over the nation. Even though young people have a minor reaction to the virus normally, schools act as ideal places for the virus to spread.

As the coronavirus spread, Gilpin teachers and administration began to prepare for online teaching as a precaution. Teachers re-worked their curriculum for online learning and informed students of plan B just in case the school shut down. They were highly prepared for the effects of the epidemic. Teachers bravely bore this upcoming challenge with the idea that “education must go on” something science teacher Heather Newman explained to her class. “Everything is on the website” she said, as she explained how her class would work. “We will also use the classroom to turn in assignments.”

On Friday, March 20th parents and students received a call that detailed Gilpin School District’s shut down until April 30th, which later changed until April 17th and then again until April 30th. On the first day of remote learning, students logged in at 8 am March 23rd ready to jump into the virtual school day. Secondary teachers started teaching high school a little differently.  By communicating via Google Classroom, and WebEx, a video conferencing site, and Gmail, teachers helped students individually and held virtual classes. Additionally, teachers created independent work projects that fostered an online learning environment. When the week came to a close, everyone had their opinions of what online school was like.

One student, 11th grader Robert Castillo, shared his thoughts on online learning. Robert explained that he had mixed feelings about online learning. He pointed out how much easier certain things are done in school vs online. Robert spoke to the advantages and disadvantages of online school: “Advantages: Being able to go to the bathroom whenever […], eating whenever, and all that. Also […] not being given hundreds of papers to keep in a backpack and needing to keep them safe. Much easier to keep papers online. Disadvantages: the amount of work that teachers put up, the overwhelming need to turn in things at 4:00 pm for each class you have, and needing to be online at certain times or being counted absent.”

Gilpin School unfortunately had to suspend all sports and activities. Prom, Gilpin’s play, Middle School Girls Soccer, baseball, Science Bowl Competition, graduation, the Senior Trip, and track were all postponed or canceled along with events all over the nation. Commenting on sports and activity suspension, Robert said, “I am currently not playing any sports, but do feel for the people who were so excited to do a sport or activity this year. I know that many live events across the country have also canceled, one of which is my personal favorite – professional wrestling (WWE, AEW, etc.) which has also been changed to having no live audience in attendance.”

All in all, Robert hopes online school evolves into something a little different. “I do think we can do remote learning differently, and that’s by not forcing students to be online or being counted absent.”

Cassidy Wood, 10th grade high school student, shared her love of online learning, “I like remote learning because I can work at my own pace and I don’t feel like I’m being trapped in a building for eight hours. I feel kinda’ free.”

Speaking about her experience, Aucklynn Sacco, 9th grade Gilpin Student said, “I like remote learning, but I don’t like cancellations and being quarantined.”

Another student, Ashton Turkalty, 10th grade, spoke of social isolation, “I just miss seeing people and I’m bored all the time.”

Troubleshooting online learning, teachers have worked hard to make everything go smoothly. Like students, this is all new for them. They too, reflected on their experience with online learning. Dawn Blake, Middle School/ High School Math teacher, shared the disadvantages and advantages of online learning. “Advantages: Students can work at their own pace. Allows for flexibility for families, and allows for learning to continue even though we cannot be with our students. Disadvantage: It is tough to explain concepts through a webcam when internet connections are weak. It is not easy to maintain one-on-one relationships with students. Not all students have a great work environment at home.”

Ms. Blake believes that, “Remote learning is a million times better than just cancelling school.” Along with remote school comes some challenges for teachers. Mrs. Blake explains her struggles and how she overcame them when she said, “I am teaching with a 4 year old and 6 year old in my new home-based “classroom.” Balancing online teaching with parenting is almost impossible, but we are trying! Also, planning for remote learning with very little notice and training has been a challenge. Webinars and online resources have helped.”

Remote learning is a new adventure for Gilpin School. Teachers and students are troubleshooting together and getting used to being apart while learning. What is most clear with the implementation of online learning is that school will not stop in the midst of this pandemic. Education and support will continue, and our future generation and leaders are in good hands!

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