By Lia Hudgins
“A bit… hopeless for this year…”
In the pre-covid era, fall was a time for homecoming dances and school spirit. Pep rallies that weren’t pre-recorded on a tv screen. Growing anticipation for Halloween. This year, there must be something in the water.
“We’ve never experienced anything like a pandemic, individually and collectively, it is unprecedented amongst our current [living] generations. Our social, political, economic, psycho-emotional and subsequently, our cultural perceptions and paradigms have been thrown into disarray…”
It’s barely November, and we’re already tired.
As COVID continues to put a weight on the shoulders of modern education systems, it’s no surprise that the students are still struggling under the added pressure and restrictions to our already stressful mission here in high school.
Yet, each of those quotes came directly from a teacher or staff member here at Heritage. Barely done with the first quarter and already burning out.
Of course, for a candle as bright as Heritage to burn out, it has to be lit. For all the time staff has spent trying to light our candles, did anyone ever bother to check on theirs?
We’ve heard little from our teachers and administrators, the group that ultimately keeps the school running. Despite their already busy schedules, many agreed to meet with me.
Many have said that this school year has a slump. Why do you think we’re tired, at this point in time? Do you think we’re tired at all…?
“We are in a school year where a lot of people believe we are back to normal, and we are not normal. We are acting with everything- the protocols, the policies- are back in full force. It’s not a normal school year, physically. I think that is where we can see stress start to accumulate.”
- Ms. Nock
Attempting to act with a sense of normalcy is challenging when there is a direct obstacle in the way of actually doing so. Perhaps without continually cancelled school events and the constant reminder of a mask, we could have come back normal?
“This second summer, we had lots of hope for opening up just like we’re supposed to. And while people are happy that we’re open, there’s so many more restrictions to enforce; teachers have to enforce, administrators have to enforce… and we like working with kids, not telling them what to do all the time. So, just having those extra things to manage and the fact that we thought we’d go back to normal… having that hope, and then not having it come to full fruition, I think is what is making everybody so exhausted.”
- Principal Lyons
ON MOTIVATION TO PERFORM
How do you think this has affected the drive and motivation among staff here at Heritage?
“At first, what we saw was a lot of immediate support for education industries. There was the switch to online learning. But when the year got underway, the collaboration between teachers and students just… did not occur as it needed to.”
- Ms. Yates
The cameras staying off. Lecturing a computer screen for hours at a time with no response. The absences. The late work.
“It has been incredibly difficult to build relationships this year. It’s hard to make connections with the students when there is no communication. I don’t take it personally, but what I used to try doesn’t work anymore. It takes a toll on how I can teach.”
- Ms. Szadek
“While we are excited to have students back in general, when our plans, our events, our games kept getting cancelled, it took a lot away from students and staff. You take away the fun parts of school, and it will lead to exhaustion.”
- Principal Lyons
ON REMOTE LEARNING
Overall, would you say that remote learning was more beneficial, or destructive?
“Oh, definitely detrimental. The students had no way of learning how to communicate within this age group or at this level.”
With students knowing how to send an email, but not knowing how to collaborate with their teachers or peers, it limits their potential, as well as their performance capacity.
“Last year, they [students] had the flexibility to do whatever they wanted to during the day, and just logging on when they had to, which is awesome because it gives them the experience for what college might be like, you know, that’s all up to you… but now they’re coming back face-to-face for this school year, and they’re realizing that they’re being held accountable, but they don’t feel trained for that.”
- Ms. Nock
Other examples of remote learning detriments include a lack of ability to manage the classroom, a lack of preparation for the current school year, and staff –as well as– student burnout.
However, teachers like Ms. Yates and Ms. Nock would like to note that the change was “necessary for safety”, and that “the switch to technology was needed. One thing that the pandemic did provide was access to laptops and Wi-Fi for every student. We didn’t have that before.”
ON SCHOOL CULTURE
Can you speak to the change that has occurred in student/staff culture as a result of COVID restrictions and having over a year to adjust/adapt to them?
When I originally asked this question, I expected a negative response. Students took a big hit off of COVID, and I doubt that anyone is really satisfied with the ‘21-’22 school year. However, our staff, just as they always have, were able to provide a positive outlook on the situation.
“We will bounce back. Obviously, it’s easier the younger you are, but when you have a passion for this career –and we do– we will always bounce back in time.”
“At this point, you have to control your controllables. We’ve been through a lot in the last year, but talking about it, providing support for each other… even just awareness, that can help a lot. We can’t fix the past overnight, but I would give it two years or less before we’ve shaken everything off.”
With the holidays right around the corner, make sure to tell a teacher or administrator that you appreciate what they’ve done for you. During this pandemic, everytime a student has fallen, a teacher has been there to pick them up. Throughout remote learning, and even now in person, thank you for keeping the Heritage candle burning bright.
Special thanks to
For agreeing to interview despite your busy schedules. Thanks for every lunch you let me take up, and every email you replied to. And thanks to Mr. Schweickert, for letting me run around this school for two weeks.
Check out Jordan Martin’s article for a student perspective on navigating this COVID aftermath.