How Has the ESD Staff Been Affected by Distance Learning?

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Mark G.

The halls at Day Creek Intermediate may be empty, but learning is still taking place despite the current situations.

By Shivani R. and Mikah C.

It is widely known that due to the coronavirus, the Etiwanda School District has temporarily closed its schools and transitioned to Distance Learning. Many students are pleased to swap six hours of school for watching their teacher on a screen while lounging in their cotton pajamas.

Students have come to expect a regular dose of digital assignments through Google Classroom. Staff members are slowly, but surely, learning how to cope with this new situation. But what is it like for all of the ESD staff members to work from home? 

The new Distance Learning Standards were sprung upon teachers without much warning, and most of them hadn’t envisioned the final two months of school to be taught through virtual programs like Zoom or Google Hangouts. 

“The first week of the closure was pretty crazy, because we kept getting new, hanging, conflicting information. Within a day or two we got word that we were not allowed on campus at all. Once we got word that the school was closed for the rest of the year, we got another notification that we could get on campus to get what we needed to plan for instruction,” said 8th grade teacher Mrs. Gossage.

This new situation has presented benefits and drawbacks. Most teachers miss their classrooms and students. They would much rather be on a physical school campus than stuck in their homes, teaching through a Mac screen. 

“If I’m being honest, working from home is hard. It’s a lot of work and it’s time consuming. I would prefer to be back in the classroom. I miss my students and my coworkers,” said 7th grade teacher Mrs. Neighbor.

But teaching online has also proven to have some advantages. It has helped teachers explore new technology, as well as given them a break from rushing to campus at 7am. More free time and relaxation has shown to be a positive side effect regardless of the current circumstances. 

“I have to say that I do really like the flexibility that distance learning provides. I don’t feel as rushed when I’m teaching, because I’m not worried about the bell. Personally, I also really enjoy having breaks. It’s given our family lots of time to bake, play games, go for walks, and just relax,” said Mrs. Gossage. 

Since school is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, schoolwork carries a different weight throughout the district. Assignments shouldn’t drop a student’s grade. Instead, it is recommended that students do the work so they can stay on top of their learning and continue with what is aligned in our state’s standards. But it is ultimately up to them (and their parents) to determine whether or not they complete their work. 

“Now that learning is our only goal, I am so pleased to see my kids rising to the challenge. School is about a lot more than standardized tests, and my students are proving that to be true right now more than ever. Right now my main concern is to make sure they know that I’m here for them and that I still have big plans for them,” said 7th grade teacher Mr. Evans. 

Substitute teachers are known to fill in when a teacher is not available to conduct a class. But in the current situation, substitutes are out of work. This is challenging for them, considering that it is nearly impossible to find a job right now. 

“Concerning how I will be affected by everything; I will not be able to return to work as a substitute teacher until further notice. For substitute teachers, if we are unable to work, then we do not receive compensation (no work, no pay),” said Etiwanda School District substitute Mr. Moss.

Many substitute teachers would rather be teaching in a classroom than stuck at home without employment. However, similar to those they replace throughout the year, they try to be positive about the situation.

“I miss going to work daily and having the opportunity to be a guest teacher for K-12 students. I love my job as a substitute teacher, but for now, I just hope and pray things will get better so I can return to work,” said Mr. Moss. 

Not only are teachers and substitutes affected by this new circumstance, but what are PE teachers supposed to do with all this time off? Unlike their standard education peers, they haven’t been able to run their daily PE classes through an online platform where they can directly interact with students. 

However, our PE teachers are still making an effort to continue their classes, even though they can’t be live. Every day, a video is posted on the Day Creek Intermediate School P.E.Distance Learning page with a new workout. 

“I’ve been uploading things onto our PE distance learning site and now we are making recorded PE lessons for the site starting next week (Mon, April 6). Each of us will take a day each week for the PE classes,” said PE teacher Mr. Nemecek. 

When running a school, being on campus is essential. With the new quarantine expectations, that is not always possible. Principals and assistant principals have a lot of work on their hands, yet they are trying their best to manage the campus from their keyboards. 

“We have been instructed to stay in our office, limiting contact with others. We have to wear some type of face mask, which is provided by the district. Mr. Apodaca goes in (to his office) at least once a week, and Mrs. Tarasi and myself only go in when necessary,” said assistant principal Mrs. Kelley.

On the bright side, the new technology the staff is learning may be beneficial for future lessons and planning. Teachers will certainly become more comfortable with digital class management as well as distributing assignments online because of this necessity now. 

“As far as the teachers, I think that, although it is very stressful right now, they are creating some wonderful new lessons which they will now incorporate into their daily lessons each year,” said Mrs. Kelley.

While online classes allow teachers to see their students’ faces, administrators don’t have the privilege of interacting with kids in their own personal meetings. They are no longer able to stop by the cafeteria or interact with students and teachers in regular classroom visits. 

“When I walk the halls or go into classrooms, that is when I feel the emptiness the most. The best way I can describe it is coming home and no one is there,” said DCIS principal Mr. Apodaca. 

However, they can still join different online class meetings and gauge how teachers and students are handling distance learning. 

“I really, really enjoy attending DCIS teachers’ virtual sessions with their students! It is so fun to see students’ faces and see them continuing to learn despite the current circumstances,” said Mrs. Kelley.

In these distressing times it’s essential to remain grateful for the positives. Teachers didn’t anticipate instructing primarily through online platforms when they earned their credentials. This is a new process for everyone, and it doesn’t mean we get to give up on our education or take a six-month summer.  

“Just because school is closed doesn’t mean school is over! We have the capacity to do a lot of good while we’re riding this out, and I intend to encourage my students to make the most of it. Their hard work and enthusiasm encourages me to do the same,” said Mr. Evans. 

This story was originally published on The Day Creek Howl on April 15, 2020.