Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
IRVINE ‒ Friday, April 24, 2020, marks the last day of the fifth week of distance learning – a switch to virtual learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the California governor’s stay-at-home order. Students and teachers at Arnold O. Beckman High School now have had a little over a month to adjust and adapt to the new norm of staying at home and learning the educational content from a distance.
Distance learning is a big change as there are some parts of being at a physical school setting that cannot be replicated at home. First, there is no set schedule anymore, instead classwork ‒ or homework ‒ is completed based on a student’s personal schedule throughout the day. Second, there is no classroom, so teachers have to set up Google Meets or other meeting platforms to have virtual interactions with their students. Lastly, there is no one around, and that itself makes a huge difference for both students and teachers.
“Now, I am definitely socializing a lot less with both friends and teachers, so sometimes I feel a little disconnected from the teachers,” says freshman LeAnn Tai. “I miss joking around with my friends and working with classmates when I’m struggling.”
These changes have greatly affected the plans for the class of 2020 as many senior activities have been canceled or postponed until further notice. However, graduation is expected to happen on August 5, 2020, at 6 p.m. at Tustin High School.
“Besides losing the senior year activities that I have been looking forward to, I have lost the opportunity to say goodbye to the friends and teachers that have made my high school experience the amazing time it was,” states senior Blaine Samson.
The teachers are also missing the interaction with their students and colleagues just as much as the students themselves.
“The part that I enjoy the most is the interactive dynamic with my students, [and] I take a lot of pride getting to know my students and getting to know when they understand something and when they don’t,” comments Mr. Hallstrom, the English 1T and English 3H teacher. “It’s nearly impossible to replicate that through a computer screen two, three, four times a week.”
Even though distance learning comes with its own challenges, it also comes with its own benefits. As the school is now five weeks into distance learning, both students and teachers have adjusted to the new environment and found some schedule that works for them.
“I can choose to spend my time more wisely and gain more free time to work on my own nonschool-related project or even play games,” states sophomore Min Kim. “In fact, I continue using my planner and daily work note to maintain my good working habit.”
Students also note that the teachers have been putting in lots of effort to make distance learning comfortable for them.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when making the switch from traditional class learning to fully online, but my teachers have done a great job at easing us in and making the workload feasible given the ongoing circumstances,” says junior Carina Vo-Ta. “I’ve actually come to enjoy distance learning because of all the free time I have now and the flexibility in my schedule.”
However, Advanced Placement (AP) exams are still happening, with some modifications, so AP teachers are busy making sure that their students are prepared for the upcoming AP exams.
“As an AP teacher, my goal this semester has been to maximize academic impact while minimizing busywork,” remarks Mr. Chow, the AP Biology teacher. “I have redesigned my teaching in several ways to help students review concepts as well as give students multiple opportunities to practice their writing to prepare for their [Free Response Question] (FRQ) AP Exam this May.”
Even though school is now different, with the current situation at hand, Beckman High School did its best to make the transition into distance learning as smooth as possible for its students and staff.
“I miss the contact with kids, the people, I miss work,” admits Dr. Rafter, the principal at Beckman High School. “But given the circumstances, I do feel that we’re making the best of it in a tough situation. It’s not perfect, but for the short notice and the lack of training, I think we did a really good job adjusting.”
As distance learning remains for the rest of the school year, learning at home becomes the new norm for students across the country. Whether there will be changes to virtual learning for the fall semester of 2020 for next year has yet to be decided.
In the meantime, stay home and stay safe!