Coming Back To School,Teacher Version

Animo Pat Brown teachers talk about their feelings and opinions about returning to in-person learning during a pandemic, after a year and a half of teaching online.

By America Diaz and Ada Gonzalez

Seven students around an outdoor lunch table.

APB students in Dual Enrollment class participate in an activity to learn about interesting facts about their peers. Animo Pat Brown website/Facebook

 

On the 11th of August, 2021, teachers at Animo Pat Brown Charter High School returned to in person learning after one year and a half of doing distance learning, formulating different views about returning during a pandemic.

Distance learning at APB consisted of classes that were only 70 minutes long instead of the usual 100 minutes for in person classes. Additionally, the classes were only for about 4-5 hours of a day in comparison to being in school for 6 and a half hours.

“The most challenging part is probably getting used to the schedule like being at a school from the morning to the afternoon,” History teacher Mr. Hinojosa said.

“All the assignments you are getting in all your classes can be overwhelming as if the online learning teacher did not assign as much work,” our Drama teacher, Ms. Lee said.

As part of the transition, Ms. Lee mentions that she sees a lot of temptation from her students to want to check their phone constantly during classes.

Despite the challenges, the staff have been able to track all vaccination and are working hard to keep our community safe, as well having a vaccination clinic here at APB to not only keep the students safe but family members as well.

When asking Mr. Hinojosa if he believed coming back to in person learning was the best choice and why, he said “To an extent I think it was a good choice because having those interactions day to day I think helps a lot with getting kids to work and actually learning as in distance learning we are trying to survive.”

When asking Ms. Lee, about her opinion about returning to in person learning during a pandemic was a good choice, she said “In my humble opinion I don’t know if there was a right or wrong answer. I think in an ideal world if we could have everything done the safest way. I would have preferred half of her classes in the morning and the other half  in the evening so that the class sizes would be smaller.”

For both Ms. Lee’s and Mr. Hinojosa’s biggest worry is that their students will have a hard time participating in whole group discussions and small groups with their classmates.

In addition, Ms. Lee’s biggest anxiety is having classes so big and full that there isn’t much social distancing between her students. “My classes are pretty full, I have about 33 kids in a class so every seat is taken, classes are jam packed, and it doesn’t make space for an appropriate social distance at all,” Ms. Lee said.

Mr. Hinojosa talks about what is something he wants to continue to do in order to help his student with the transition about coming back to school.

“I think the biggest thing is empathy and understanding, even though before I was understanding but I think now I am more understanding with student situations at home. Especially last year during distance learning, I am trying to keep that same empathy and support for my students when anything happens and be there as much as I can,” Mr. Hinojosa said.

“The biggest thing is that we are all still going through a pandemic and I think with that comes a lot of emotional turns and trauma that our students are going through,”Ms. Lee said.

She herself is still going through the grief of the loss of a very good friend of hers.

“More struggles were added during this pandemic compared to the struggles that they [students] already had,” Ms. Lee said.

As a teacher she believes that it is important and necessary to pay attention to her students’ actions in order to know if they need any extra support.

Students seated in a classroom. Teacher by the whiteboard gesturing.

Seniors are receiving an English lesson by Ms. Magdaleno and Ms. Tzic in the building of Animo Pat Brown. Animo Pat Brown website/Facebook

 

For a year and a half, every teacher had to learn how to use their digital resources: Zoom, Nearpod, and Edpuzzle. Both teachers have stated that upon returning, the biggest change was the social interaction and actual discussions, especially when that was the biggest thing that was difficult to do.

“Teaching in person is much more engaging and there’s more opportunities to build relationships with students. Online learning was very challenging in that way, it was hard to gauge that level of engagement,” Ms Lee said.

For Mr. Hinojosa, this is just his 2nd year of teaching at APB, and technically, his 1st year of teaching at APB in-person. Curious, we made sure to ask for his experience because his experience is different in comparison to many other teachers at APB.

He stated that some of the biggest changes of being a ‘new’ teacher in-person is just the ability to have an easy solution to technical problems.

“What’s different is that if technology doesn’t work, you can easily do work on paper or just have discussions, unlike Zoom where you can just mute yourself, losing all hope of a meaningful discussion,” Mr Hinojosa said.

The thing we must all remember is that we are still in a pandemic, we’re not allowed to do whatever we like and freely, or at least not like before. And for many, our lifestyle has changed and we are slowly trying to get readjusted into life before COVID-19.

“After the vaccination, I started exploring and going out a little bit like runs, hikes, going to the gym, things I used to do before, just with a lot more caution,” Mr. Hinojosa said, emphasizing the importance of being active in his daily routine.

Because of the pandemic, the thing that took the biggest toll on everyone is their mental health and returning while having just healed or still healing from our trauma.

“Often times I try my best to be positive and happy with my students because I already know my students are going through a lot,” Ms. Lee said, who was students’ biggest advocate for mental health who even included meditation for each class during the past year, “but that takes a toll on me too because I’m also human going through my own trauma and grief and I was putting others’ needs ahead of my own as the adult and trying to keep it together.”

In the end, every person experienced some challenges during the pandemic that took a toll on them, and now, we’re back and having to socialize everyday from morning to the afternoon and get our work done.

Even then, there are many ways to help each other out especially during this grand transition of online learning and teaching to in-person.

Both teachers claimed that empathy and patience is the most important thing that will help us in our process of transitioning, emphasizing that everyone is on the same boat and have gone through some things.

Mr. Hinojosa expresses that yes we all are going through troubling times, but if we work together the transition will become more smooth.

“At the end of the day we all have our lives and are going through this pandemic. If we’re open with each other and build that community, it can help us a lot with this transition,” Mr. Hinojosa said.

We are all in this together and we wanted to get some insight on teachers on their thoughts of returning and a little bit of the aftermath of distance learning. In the end, in hopes to keep attending school in person to avoid this situation again, we must stay safe by following COVID protocols and be patient with each other and the situation.

 

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