Is the Learning this Fall Actually Effective?

Fall of 2020 has been a questioning time. The Hamilton Wenham School District is doing a hybrid schedule, which is three days on an at-home plan and two days in person. It is nearing the beginning of winter, and people can’t help but think about how the school year will continue on. Are class times being used practically and efficiently? How are students struggling or thriving with the workload in both at home and at school settings? These are questions everyone wants to know the answers to including teachers, parents, students and the Community entirely. 

The NY times published an article focusing on the worries that students are not properly advancing in their studies and schoolwork due to the new structure of learning. It is argued that at home students suffer with getting the help needed and spend large amounts of time on the computer. In class, students are less likely to speak up or ask questions due to a quiet and somewhat secluded environment. Kristen Borges, a history teacher here at HW also acknowledges “The spirit seems a little different… kids have been a lot quieter in class and I’m hoping it’s just going to take a little bit longer to build that community”.

It’s clear that the environment of the classroom has changed and in turn affected the engagement level for students. Although the teachers feel a change, they still hope their classrooms will be able to provide a safe and supportive community for their students. 

Along with a new way of learning, there are also obvious changes to the amount of work given out and how it is given out. Now every class has a google classroom, where students log in and can access all of their work in one place. But students have commented that the work at home can be a lot to handle without personal instruction and hands on help. The spring of 2020 showed how confusing online work affected the averages of student grades. It’s debatable whether or not this new form of assigning work is progressing learning for kids because of mixed feelings from students. Sophomore student at Hamilton Wenham Sydney Mason says “ Fall is way more put together and organized than in the spring, I also feel like because we have actual grades now people are trying harder and putting more work into their assignments”. 

Depending on the student, their perspective and comfort level with the amount of work being given varies. However, most can agree this year’s online setup for google classroom assignments is an improvement from last spring. 

This year all online work is being done through google classroom and other platforms. This means students spend most of their time in school doing classwork with their teachers or collaborative assignments with their peers. The newest challenge is to examine the skill and knowledge kids can have absorbed during these recent weeks. The responsibility of actual focus and learning is now in the hands of the students, with most being home alone in their rooms and no one keeping them accountable but themselves. Teachers trust that their students are using their time and energy wisely to try their best to learn online, even if it’s hard. During a normal school year, tests, exams and grades are the “best” way to determine the ability of retaining information for students. This year, teaching, schedules and workload have all been drastically changed. Do teachers still believe testing is the best way to see if their students are understanding the material?

Kristen Borges says,  “whether you are doing that in front of me on demand or at home it is the same skill.” She has faith in her students that they will try their very best to adapt to these new ways of teaching and use the time she has with them once a week to learn the most they can. 

Switching from hybrid to remote has shown to be difficult on both students and teachers. It’s all a learning experience and compared to last spring, it has improved greatly. The school community will keep working and try to help students and teachers come together even it’s over zoom.