Teachers’ Thoughts on Online Learning

Challenging times have fallen upon us due to the Coronavirus. Many students are concerned about how their schedules have changed or how they are confined to their homes. Organized sports are gone, as well as many other activities that we enjoy. In this article, some light is shed on the thoughts and opinions of teachers on online learning. Also, views of Varsity coaches on their lost seasons are shared. A variety of teachers and coaches were interviewed, and here are some of their answers on our new learning model. 

Mr. Richards, Latin and Rowing

  1. Are teachers in the Latin Department using technology to the fullest? 

We are certainly all using it in a variety of ways, but primarily Zoom, Loom, and various Google apps. We are also attuned to the fact that too much screen time is, well, too much screen time, so we are trying to incorporate other modes of teaching & learning which are less technology-driven, mainly in the form of projects.

  1. What limitations have online learning put on the fulfillment of the Latin curriculum? 

I think perhaps the biggest challenge in terms of teaching per se has been how to develop and give online assessments that are both fair and effective. (The College Board has been addressing the same thing with APs, and the changes to the exams this year are pretty drastic.) In terms of the BHS curriculum, I think it is probably fair to say that we may end up getting a bit less material taught than we would have on-campus and in-person, but overall I think the feeling after three full weeks is that we are adapting and making pretty good progress with our classes.

  1. Since you are the coach of Varsity rowing, how much of a set back is the loss of the Spring season to the rowers? 

I think it would be difficult to overestimate how big a setback this has been for the team. We have a really motivated bunch of guys who had worked incredibly hard and were totally fired up for the prospect of this spring and the chance to shoot for another New England title. So yes, it has been hard for everyone. But our captains and seniors have done a great job of keeping the team invested and motivated, and lots of the guys have continued to train diligently. Some, like Aidan McGaugh, have even taken their training to the next level. We get together via Zoom every week for a team meeting and then a yoga session with Kelly Mara, so that has helped keep us connected.

Mr. Trautz, Science

  1. How is technology limiting or adding to the ability of the Science curriculum to be carried out?

The science department has been able to move ahead with meaningful curriculum during online learning thanks in part to the use of different technologies such as Google Classroom, Loom Videos, FlipGrid, Kahoot, and digital document cameras called Elmos. The department has worked hard to create engaging and thoughtful projects, as well as ensuring that boys will have the skills necessary to move ahead in their future respective science courses. I think this new learning paradigm has caused all of the faculty to pause and reflect on how we can deliver meaningful content in new and exciting ways. While it has not always been perfect, the department continues to explore other technologies such as online labs and videos to augment the current material.

  1. Are any of the science teachers frustrated with online learning, and how so?

The number one frustration most of the science faculty are experiencing is not having day-to-day contact with our students. We are truly energized by seeing the students every day in the classroom. Whether it be during advisory, on the playing fields, or in the arts, it is tough to recreate this sense of community and all of the typical contact points we have with the boys, but we are genuinely trying to make this a rich experience. I think we are also a bit frustrated by the time it takes to create content to be viewed online, knowing that many of the skills we typically teach are best acquired in person. I personally am missing many of the labs we conduct in class and in small groups. It is difficult considering we know you boys don’t have access to lab equipment (bunsen burners, chemicals, safety goggles, etc.) to do some of our experiments. However, we are hard at work coming up with new and creative ways to get you guys engaged and doing science at home.

Mr. Sherman, Math

  1. Are teachers in the Math Department using technology to the fullest?

I think that the math department is doing really well using technology. We use a variety of platforms as I’m sure you know: Google Classroom, Zoom and Loom I think are the three biggest right now, and that seems to be getting us through. In addition most or all of us have small writing tablets through which we can not only put math up on a virtual Notebook/whiteboard, but also add notations when correcting papers. I believe this is plenty right now. There may be a couple of other bells and whistles, but I think if we use the basics like this we are doing fine. 

  1. Are Math teachers teaching everything that they would if we were at school?

Looking at AP Calculus, the AP has chopped off the last unit of eight units worth of material to be tested, so that is a model in which quite a few topics at the end of the course will not be on the AP exam. I’m pretty sure we don’t anticipate losing 12% of every math course at Belmont Hill. 

  1. Is it harder or easier to teach math online?

I think we all think it is harder to teach online, for the obvious reason that we don’t have that immediate interpersonal contact with our students, on which we thrive. And doing everything in front of a small screen is fatiguing, as I’m sure you’re experiencing. So we are going through much of the same Zoom fatigue that the students are, which makes us especially sympathetic to the situation. 

Mr. Leonardis, English

  1. Are teachers in the English Department using online technology to the fullest?

We are learning as we go. But we are learning a lot, and we will have new abilities, tools, and skills when we get back to regular school.

  1. As a whole, do you think teachers in the English Department are teaching more or less material than if we were in school?

We are intentional in trying to do less, but doing it well, and making meaningful assignments for our students. 

Mr. Harder, Track and Field 

  1. Since you are the head coach of varsity track, how much of a set back is the loss of the Spring season to your athletes?

The Coronavirus has doomed our season, plain and simple.  Track and field is not just running, so the guys who high jump, triple jump, long jump, pole vault, the guys who throw the three implements (shot put, discus, javelin) are unable to practice since pretty much all facilities are closed.  The runners are able to do running workouts on their own, and some are choosing to do so, which is great.  We have a yoga session with Kelley Mara available to the track team on Tuesday afternoons, which at least provides us with something we can choose to do synchronously.  Huge disappointment for everyone on the team, coaches and athletes, that we are unable to have a competitive season this spring.  I feel particularly bad for the seniors, because spring, 2020 represents their final opportunity to compete in a Belmont Hill uniform.  At the same time, however, many citizens of the world are making much more significant sacrifices, sometimes ones of life and death.  It’s important, I think, to put losing our season into a much broader global perspective.  

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