Schools still adjusting to new circumstances

Connecting+to+classmates+and+teachers+is+difficult+while+learning+virtually%2C+and+new+home+learning+environments+can+present+distractions+for+students.

Paulina Fenske

Connecting to classmates and teachers is difficult while learning virtually, and new home learning environments can present distractions for students.

Shorewood School District has faced many new changes with virtual learning this year, with each school having to find new ways of teaching in a pandemic. Instead of being in a regular classroom, students are going to virtual classes through online meeting platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet, in order to still have some sort of live interaction with their teachers and peers. 

“It’s tough for [the students]. For them to have to sit in front of a screen is very difficult,” said Richard Rosen, fourth grade teacher at Lake Bluff Elementary.

The teachers have faced some challenges as well, as it is hard for them not to connect with students in person.

It’s tough for [the students]. Tor them to have to sit in front of a screen is very difficult”

— Richard Rosen, fourth grade teacher

“The other difficult thing is not being able to give immediate feedback to the students,” Rosen said. “Sure, you’re in a zoom room and they can raise their hand, but you could have five to ten kids raising their hand, and it takes a while to get to all of them.”

Similar problems were faced at Shorewood Intermediate School, yet they have come up with a plan that has brought students and teachers closer together.

“Now guided study is a big part of the school day, and every morning students meet with their guided study class and teacher for the first half hour of school,” said Moriah Weingrod, dean of students at Shorewood Intermediate School. “That’s where you can get all of your information on being successful in this virtual world.”

Students are able to see their grades and missing assignments, as well as meet with teachers and connect with the students in their guided study outside of the regular classes they take. SIS has also been working on keeping students organized with virtual learning.

 “We’ve spent a lot of time walking students through how to organize things in a way that’s really easy, [such as] color coding and labeling,” Weingrod said.

Similar support is taking place at Atwater Elementary, where teachers are working hard to connect with students and help them with anything they need to be successful in this online environment.

“Our teachers are learning strategies through our work with EL [Expeditionary Learning] Education,” said Nate Schultz, principal of Atwater Elementary School. “We’re talking more about self-care and stress management and how our teachers can provide some more support.” 

We’re talking more about self-care and stress management and how our teachers can provide some more support”

— Nate Schultz, Atwater principal

The community as a whole has played a big role in the success of online school for the district, with Shorewood parents and guardians being very supportive and patient with this new environment.

“Our Shorewood parents have always been extremely cooperative and collaborative,” Schultz said. “Teachers and [adults] are a team when it comes to their child’s learning, and they really have strong connections with each other, and this year that’s been stronger than ever.”

 Shorewood High School has been also working to build these connections throughout the school’s community, with the school building an online learning plan based on the feedback they’ve received from students. 

“Families wanted more structure to the day, they wanted more interaction with peers,” said Tim Kenney, principal of Shorewood High School, about the online learning plan that took place in the spring of 2020. “That’s why we created the schedule that we did, and [the students] have to go to classes. The idea is to provide opportunities for students to engage much more than they did in the fourth quarter.”

This new schedule has helped to improve the relationships between students and teachers at Shorewood High School. With all of the new changes happening due to virtual learning, Shorewood School District has found new ways to connect and teach students. Though the situation may not be ideal, the community has managed to come together and create a solid platform on which students are able to learn and connect with one another in a virtual environment, with the hopes to even further improve these connections for the future.