Blue Valley Adapts to Online Learning

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Photo by Grace Whittinghill.

Junior Grace Whittinghill doing online classes. According to Whittinghill, even though it is different, online school has its benefits. “It’s a lot different than actually learning at school, but having online school helped me kind of structure my days more,” Whittinghill said.

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In order for students to keep engaged in school after all Kansas schools were closed for the remainder of the school year, Blue Valley Schools opted for continuous online learning. However, according to some teachers and students, there are new challenges.
According to broadcast teacher Charles Huette, being present in person for his class was integral to the learning process, which is why online learning brings difficulties for some aspects of the class.
“I designed my class as a workshop class,” Huette said. “When you move online, all the ‘workshop’ elements -easy collaboration, quick feedback, in-person coaching, group accountability, etc- all have to be adapted, modified or abandoned.”
Another challenge online school brought to Huette was the lack of time to plan the classes and find a new way for them to function.
“If I had a month or so to completely redesign my class for an online school, I’m confident I could do that, but it would involve completely re-imagining the entire course from start to finish,” Huette said.
According to Jeff Breedlove, social studies department chair, even though the system is not ideal and can be a bit difficult, measures to give students a chance to keep good grades were taken.
“There is no ‘perfect’ way to handle this situation,” Breedlove said. “Social studies teachers are trying to be empathetic and aware that not everyone is able to put forward the same level of effort during this crisis. We really just want kids to stay healthy and be well.”
However, according to Breedlove, even though he tries to stay in touch with students through Zoom and e-mail, he misses the classroom.
“Most social studies teachers are still teaching new content and trying to meet with kids during weekly office hours,” Breedlove said. “I hate not being able to interact more with kids. This is hard for everyone”
According to Casey Petty, FACS teacher, schools shutting down was a surprise for most people, which is why it is hard for her to stay engaged and motivate students.
“Nobody thought we’d be spending the fourth quarter online, so it’s really challenging to keep everyone in the ‘we’re still in school’ mindset,” Petty said.
According to Petty, there are also outside factors that might be a challenge for students and families, making it harder to stay engaged with schoolwork.
“Some students and families are really struggling right now,” Petty said. “Whether it’s health struggles, financial struggles or mental health struggles, we have to put that first before schoolwork.”
According to senior Cassandra Kramer, one of the struggles she faces as a student is missing the teachers and being in classes that made school fun for her, such as choir and band, and it was a challenge to not be able to say goodbye to those classes.
“I miss singing with the choir and hearing all the different parts and how they work together, and I miss Mr. Sickel’s spontaneous rap and singing sessions,” Kramer said.
However, even though she misses the classes, it is hard for her to do the online work because she doesn’t see a reason to do it, according to her.
“So far our assignments have been recording us singing and playing instruments, and it’s not going towards anything, so it feels pointless,” Kramer said. “It’s not like we have a concert coming up, so why even bother?”
Although teachers had to make a quick adjustment, online school is different for students like junior Grace Whittinghill.
“The biggest difference is that with online learning you’re teaching yourself and you have to take a lot more responsibility with your work,” Whittinghill said.
According to Whittinghill, online learning is effective only to a certain extent, and she believes the students would be learning a lot more if they were at school.
“We have a lot less class time each week, and some teachers have said that they’re limited in that sense of how much work they can assign,” Whittinghill said. “I feel like [the teachers] had to condense the curriculum that was left for the fourth quarter.”
To make online learning effective it is necessary for students, teachers and parents to be committed, according to Jean Reynolds, math teacher at.
“Learning depends on a lot of factors,” Reynolds said. “If the teachers, students and parents are committed, learning can happen in almost any environment. None of us chose this, and we have had very little time to plan out our strategies. We are all adjusting.”
According to Reynolds, the students have done a great job facing the challenges and adjusting to this new way of learning.
“I am very proud of the way my students have stepped up to the challenge,” Reynolds said. “Most of my students are doing everything I ask, with a high quality of work.”