Virtual learning requires adaptability

Leigh Fairchild-Coppoletti (top left) teaches her D period AP Modern European History Class to students via Zoom. —Emily Gazzaniga

Since school was declared temporarily closed on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) teachers and students have had to find new ways to hold classes remotely.

Many teachers have taken to using Zoom, a video call platform, to simulate (while unable to fully recreate) aspects of the classroom experience. Others have continued to use Google Classroom, a MVRHS mainstay for assigning and collecting assignments online. 

While most teachers also feel that they will be able to provide enough information remotely to keep students moving forward, this will require that students show up. As students head into the fourth quarter, they will be assessed on a pass/fail basis, meaning many students will be required to complete less than they are used to.

“It’s sort of up to you personally,” said senior Jared Regan. “You get out what you put in.”

Teachers say that the majority of students are so far putting in the work. Spanish teacher Erin Slossberg said she often receives up to 19 messages on Remind, a student-teacher messaging service, in just a few hours, the type of response from students that can create a lot of work for teachers.

“Part of the stress is I’ve felt like I’ve needed to make myself so available to my students because I want them to feel a sense of connection and normalcy,” Ms. Slossberg said.

Yet some students still aren’t showing up. 

Math teacher Melissa Braillard said she sends out personal emails when she hasn’t heard from a student in a while.

“Letting them know that you’re here to help is important,” she said.

The notes she sends to her students via email acknowledge that living through this crisis right now can be overwhelming. “I know it’s a crazy time,” she writes. “I just haven’t heard from you. I hope you’re healthy.”

Students say that for the most part, remote classes are working out better than they thought. At the outset, many found the onslaught of emails and online assignments confusing and overwhelming — much of this due to Google Classroom notifications arriving by email every time something new is posted — but most have now become accustomed to it.

Notably, as of this past Monday, MVRHS has put in place a schedule that has students participating in two Zoom classes each day, at 10 and 11 am. This new schedule hopes to provide a consistent routine for students and teachers going forward. Teachers also have designated office hours now.  

Sophomore Zach Utz has found that the support teachers are giving everyone has been helpful. “It’s harder, definitely, especially since I’ve kind of adapted a different sleep schedule,” he said. “I’m waking up a lot later.”         

Teachers and students both say they have missed human connection.

Senior Violet Cabot said, “My biggest motivation to go to all of these Zoom classes is to see everyone and have some interaction outside of my household.”  

Biology teacher Caroline Fyler is thankful that the technology exists to connect with students, but she misses the classroom. “It’s not the same,” she said. “There’s so much that happens in a classroom. The content is just one part. All the relationships and the interactions are the part that makes me love my job so much, those connections that I have with my students.”

Students are also finding they miss going to school.

“I definitely miss school, and I’ve never really said that before, but I just want us to go back so bad,” said Jared. “I feel like I’m sort of missing out on making memories with my friends, and I feel like I’m going to miss high school and this is a crummy way to end it.”

Violet feels similarly, however, she sees a silver lining. “It’s definitely giving me a lot of skills that I’m going to need in college,” she said. “That self-scheduling, the self-motivation that can be a really difficult transition from high school to college — I think this is good practice for that.”