Hybrid learning from a teacher’s perspective
As of October 29, Webster City High School has finished their first quarter of Hybrid learning. Students took 3 or 4 blocked classes that were 90 minutes long. They met in person for 22 days and were at home with remote work for 22 days. We covered the same content and standards that we have in past years. Their classes were either high school or college classes. I congratulate the students that I had in class and many others for their patience and willingness to take on this type of learning. The juniors and seniors in my classes stepped up and were ready to go, since they had been learning remotely in the spring. Two-thirds of my students were 9th graders and the majority of them were active participants in class; doing well, learning, asking questions and succeeding.
Some students stated they like this pace and liked being able to do some lessons from home. This is perfect preparation for college. With the small number of classes they are taking at a time, they are able to zero in on those classes. Currently many colleges are holding a majority of their classes online. This requires the student to be disciplined toward learning, budget their time, set goals and to be organized. Parents also can help by having a daily check in with their children to make sure they are getting their work done and staying organized. Parents need to help hold kids accountable. It might take some help from the parent to help them focus on their learning and not be distracted by other things; gaming, sleeping, watching movies, hanging out with friends, etc. A quiet area to work and a planner to stay organized are two things I recommend to help with this. Some students are able to successfully maintain this schedule and work at a job a few hours a day also.
In a normal school year, there always seems to be a handful of students who are unwilling to work. This was also true in the Hybrid schedule, but definitely not the norm.
Some schools traditionally use a block schedule and they also finish a one semester class in 45 days.
In a recent Letter to the Editor in the Daily Freeman Journal, one parent stated, “Do you realize the number of kids with at least one failing grade is higher than usual?” I am not sure where that information comes from. Our grades for the first quarter are not due until Nov. 16. I do not have a large number of students failing. Those that were in school and put forth effort are all passing.
The high school has been preparing for this since May. There have been committees made up of teachers and administrators from all grade levels. We met weekly through the summer. I sat in on School Board meetings all through the summer that were usually focused on how best to continue learning while keeping students and teachers safe. High school classrooms are almost 200 square feet smaller than elementary and middle school classrooms. This small size and the size of our students makes social distancing with classrooms of 20 to 30 students impossible. Due to the small sizes of classrooms, we can fit at most 15 to 17 students in our classrooms at 3 feet apart. Because of this, the Hybrid schedule works to split the class size. Most classes have about 12 to 14 students on each day. I do have one section with 17. I believe the Hybrid schedule is working to keep our COVID positivity rate down. We consistently have a lower positivity rate than our surrounding counties, sometimes more than 10% lower. I am concerned moving to face-to-face learning will make the positivity rate in Hamilton County soar.
I am thankful for this type of schedule. I have Myasthenia Gravis (an autoimmune disease). It makes me very susceptible to picking up airborne illnesses and can cause difficulty in breathing. I also have two other lung diseases. Last December and January, I spent a few days in the Emergency Room and overnight in the hospital, due to picking up the stomach flu two times. I had to miss a total of two weeks of school, spread out over two instances. I dread that happening again and am thankful that we are socially distancing in uncrowded rooms and wearing face masks. If we were back full time face to face, I would definitely not be comfortable teaching from inside the school. The school accommodated me and provided me with a bigger air conditioned classroom for the first quarter. For that, I am extremely grateful.
Sometimes, I and other teachers get the impression that parents are treating teachers and the school like the enemy. We need to work together to get through these trying times and it takes willingness and cooperation from all sides. I believe that our students are best served when there is a partnership between school and home. If parents have concerns, please reach out to your child’s teacher or principal and let us know how we can help until it is safe again to return to a typical school environment.
Trish Bahrenfuss is a Webster City High School math teacher.