Teachers find new ways to interact with students during distance learning

Story by Zoe Schlaak
Staff Writer

Photo by Thomas Forman

SPUSD’s school closures on Mar. 13 and L.A.’s safer-at-home order has left many teachers in an unprecedented situation, being forced to work with students outside of the classroom. However, some SPHS staff have found unique approaches to interact with their students using weekly video calls and activities ranging from workouts to baking.

SPUSD’s Independent Study Distance Learning Program (ISDLP) has given teachers the opportunity to use online platforms such as Google Classroom and Zoom, posting assignments on a weekly basis. However, some teachers have gone above and beyond by using video calls to interact with students.

SPHS math teacher, Andrew McGough, has organized a weekly Wednesday Workout using Google Meet to help people stay active. The workout consists of a 5-minute warm-up, 7-minute workout, and a 3-minute cooldown and is open to staff and students. 

In addition to the Wednesday Workouts, he holds daily office hours via Zoom to answer questions and tackle difficult class concepts.

“This quarantine situation has really pushed me to learn new technology and it has been great. I plan on adding a lot of what I am doing now to my instruction once we return to classes,” McGough wrote. 

Sophomore AP Calculus AB student, Miranda Liu, noted how the daily communication from McGough has helped her adjust to learning at home.

“He’s available through email, Google Classroom, and Zoom which makes it really easy for us to ask questions. Also, he made YouTube videos with explanations on problems and lessons, so it’s easy for us to learn it,” Liu said.

SPHS counselor, Olinda Cazares, also hosted a Google Meet earlier in the month on how to bake and make Ecuadorian cheese empanadas from scratch. 

“I’m excited to share my tradition to the many who will join in. As a child, it was a treat my mother would make for us from scratch and have always enjoyed this delicious pastry,” Cazares wrote. 

Many teachers are helping students adjust to studying from home by encouraging them to relieve stress through creative outlets. English teacher Rama Kadri has given students an optional “quarantine journal” assignment, allowing them to document these experiences through journaling, poetry, vlogging, and photography. Kadri has also organized weekly life update discussions called “happies and crappies.”

Despite finding new ways to interact online, some teachers have struggled to adjust to interacting outside of the classroom. For World History teacher Annalee Pearson, being able to build relationships with students is what makes teaching so fulfilling.

“Every single day that I’m at SPHS I am surrounded by students all day long. I miss that. I miss the stories. I miss the lessons. I miss the laughing. I miss the crying. I miss the questions. I miss the fun. I miss the sadness. I miss their faces. I miss the successes. I miss the failures. I miss it all,” Pearson wrote.

However, Pearson has kept a positive mindset and has been able to spend more time supporting both her family and students.

“In the midst of this unfortunate crisis, I am choosing to look at being in quarantine in a positive light. I feel so fortunate to have been afforded an opportunity to spend more time with my family, rest, and really remind myself of what is actually important in life,” Pearson wrote. “Being away from my students has affirmed my educational philosophy that it is in the relationships, interaction, support, and love where teachers have an opportunity for impact and change.”

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