Shawnee Heights Takes on Virtual Learning

Due to Covid-19, the world around us is changing. Along with it, is our style of learning.

Brook Newberry, Reporter

On March 17 Laura Kelly made the decision to shut down Kansas schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Students and teachers all began to wonder “what’s next?”. The answer to this question came when the School Board announced the switch to online schooling. 

“Trying to teach from home has been a challenge. It’s been a big learning curve, and a lot of work,” spanish teacher Mrs. Marcia Smith said.

With little to no technology use in her classroom, this is a big adjustment for Mrs. Smith. But by keeping things simple she has had little issues involving technology with her students. 

“I haven’t dumbed down my class. I think I have made things simpler, and a lot less,” she said.

A typical day in Spanish would involve everything from white board work to learning games. However with everything being online, she can no longer do that.

“The biggest con is that I don’t get to see the kids, they don’t get the immediate feedback,” Mrs. Smith said. “Some kids just are not engaging at all. I still have maybe three or four that haven’t shown up,”

— Mrs. Smith

Mrs. Smith isn’t the only teacher that hasn’t been able to reach out to all of her students.

“I think out of 130 some students, I have made contact with probably 120,” chemistry teacher, Mr. Bob Wells said.

Administration has been reaching out to these absent students through phone calls to figure out what is wrong. Some students do not have internet access at home, they’re having to drive to the high school, download all of their assignments for the week, and do that all over again when they’re ready to turn them in. Others may just not be choosing to give the required effort online school takes, for one reason or another. 

“The group that the administration told me didn’t have WiFi at home, those guys are being troopers and getting everything turned in,” Mr. Wells said.

Teachers aren’t the only ones who have had to make adjustments. Some students are struggling with keeping a positive attitude.

“It’s just not the way my brain works. There’s no self motivation and I can’t sit down and work,” sophomore Savon Scott said.

A majority of teachers depend on body language and facial expressions to help let them know if students are really getting a subject or not. Mr. Wells uses this and his teaching style of getting up and checking on people throughout the classroom during a new lesson. These are two things that online school will not be able to give us.

“Not being able to do that and the unknown of ‘Are they really getting this?’ or ‘Is this really what they need?’. That’s the part that I struggle with,” Mr. Wells said.

When it comes to what they miss, the majority of students and teachers are in the same boat.

“It’s hard when you don’t have the human interaction,” Scott said.

Going into the third week of online schooling, students and teachers both have slowly gotten settled into their new routine. However sometimes it is still hard to not worry.

“This is unprecedented, we’re kind of swimming in unknown waters here. We don’t know what the heck we’re doing,” Mrs. Smith said.

— Mrs. Smith

As far as moving forward, one big question on people’s mind is how this is all going to affect next year. There have been rumors about summer school, and no more grades.

“All of the grades that are in Canvas, at the end of the year we are going to add them to what’s in PowerSchool,” Mrs. Smith said. “PowerSchool grades stopped, we’re not putting the grades from Canvas into PowerSchool right now.” 

Schools throughout Topeka have changed the way they’re doing grades for the rest of the year, some stopped doing them completely. For Shawnee Heights right now even though it looks different, in the end our grades will go in just the same.   

“I think it’s really big that we are doing grades, and that there is that accountability for the students,” Mrs. Smith said.

It is common to worry, whether that’s about final grades, or even how this all will affect next year’s learning for students.

“We’re going to be a little behind overall, and I know in Spanish we will be,” Mrs. Smith said. “That’s okay though, it can be picked up next year.”

From times like 9/11 to the Ebola outbreak, there are moments where the whole country has been on edge. However, according to Mrs. Smith the constant through it all, is that people have been there for each other and gotten through it together. 

“You just have to keep a positive attitude. We’re all going to have those moments where we get down and everything. But, the important thing is just to get back up and put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward,” Mrs. Smith said.