This past week has brought an unprecedented number of changes in public education across the nation to parents, to teachers and most of all to our students. Instead of being around tables and desks, in class discussion, on the field or around campus students are instead working at their kitchen table, on the beds or outside. And some on horseback.
With one week down we wanted to share thoughts from Templeton High School students as they reflect back on their first week of digital learning. Read on as students share about the blessings and challenges of the week, their favorite assignments, and the life lessons learned.
WHAT I HAVE MISSED MOST
Without question what has been missed most is the face to face interaction that the students have with their peers and the THS staff. One student shared, “I have missed seeing my friends, hearing Doña’s infectious laugh, my wonderful AP Psychology teacher Mrs. Barnes who always starts our days with a smile, and having a schedule.” A senior shared, “I love being in my classes each day and getting the opportunity to learn new things. Interacting with my friends is something that I also miss a lot, especially because it is my senior year, and we all don’t have a lot of time left together in high school.”
“I am only beginning to realize it now that we are on break, but the hour and a half I spent in those classes were arguably the best part of my day.”
Others shared how they now realize how much they took for granted. One said, “I never loved waking up at 6:30 am but I now miss school so much. I used to take school for granted and the ability to be in a classroom with my friends and a physical teacher, but now I miss all those things so much.” Another shared a similar comment, “I am only beginning to realize it now that we are on break, but the hour and a half I spent in those classes were arguably the best part of my day.”
Still others shared about the small things that they miss most, “Something I miss most about school is eating lunch with my friends. It’s something you don’t normally appreciate but its a great time to check-in and have a break from schoolwork together.” One shared, “its the small things. The seeing a friend walking down the hallway, a teacher stopping you and asking about your game the previous day or seeing Mr. Aston out in front of school to start the day, that’s what I miss.”
Students also shared some of the positive things that have come about because of the school closure and some were surprised.
“I have a crazy life and a crazy schedule,” one shared, “so it was nice to be able to do the simple things like my laundry and clean my room.”
Another said, “before the school closed I felt like everything was moving 1000 mph, and I just had to hold on and hope I got everything done and turned in on time.” They went on to share how teachers have been flexible and understanding with deadlines and how working at their own pace has allowed them to get things done quicker.
Many shared about the blessings of family time. “Since we have been on lockdown I have had a lot of quality time with my family. We normally have an extremely busy schedule constantly running from place to place, and without the stress of school, sports, and work we have had the time to really spend time together.” Another shared a similar thought, “Due to this long break, I have been spending more time with my family. It’s been nice spending more time with them, because we usually would be so consumed with work that we would barely have time to really spend quality time together.”
“As a person, I’ve been able to reflect on my own emotional and physical well being. I’ve continued to discover what truly makes me happy and satisfied, while also increasing my physical healthiness across the board.”
Others have enjoyed the blessings of taking care of themselves. “Something positive that has come out of this closure week is definitely the mental break I’ve been given. I’m always stressed, whether it’s about school, sports, or other extracurriculars, so it’s been nice to take a step back and reflect,” one student said. Another said, “As a person, I’ve been able to reflect on my own emotional and physical well being. I’ve continued to discover what truly makes me happy and satisfied, while also increasing my physical healthiness across the board.”
Some shared how the flexibility to work at their own pace and the additional time has allowed them to do things they might not normally have time to do. “With all activities and events cancelled right now, I have been able to use this extra time to not only complete my school work thoroughly, but as well as spend quality time with family, exercise, learn new recipes and helping out with home cooked meals, train my puppy and take him for dog walks, as well getting everyday chores and house projects completed.”
Another said, “I have been able to focus on other activities that I wouldn’t be able to normally do. For example I have been able to help my mom in the kitchen and learn how to cook. I also have been able to paint my room a new color and finish unpacking what I’ve been putting off.” And another found a new passion, “I have become more independent and creative as this first week comes to an end. I have found a new passion for painting and baking! I love that I can spend more time on the things I genuinely enjoy. “
STUDENTS GRADE THE TEACHERS
The THS teachers have had to develop a whole new style and technique in their delivery system and while this has been a challenge the students give them high marks not only for what they are teaching but how they are teaching. For some teachers switching over to a digital platform has been a steep learning curve but the students have shared how appreciative they have been for all of the hard work that the teachers have put it. When asked how distance learning is going here are some of their comments:
- “The teachers are doing everything right! They are giving thorough instructions, creating video chat calls, and sending out LOTS of emails. They are handling the situation extremely well.”
- “The teachers have really made our assignments easy to understand and they have all given us multiple ways to contact them that have been super helpful. “
- “Personally, I haven’t had any issues understanding assignments, connecting with teachers, and getting my assignments done. There was one assignment I didn’t quite understand, but I was able to email my teacher and she emailed me right back and explained it perfectly. It is frustrating because not all of my teachers are using the same platform, some are using Google Classroom, some are just emailing students, and I have a teacher using her own website. This makes it harder to check what assignments I have but I am getting used to it.”
- “I think having all our work online has been easy for me. It’s nice that teachers have office hours. They are quick to respond if you have questions. It’s also very convenient that they post all your work for the week instead of day by day. It makes it easier for me to manage my school work.”
- “It really depends on the teacher. Some teachers have everything posted with clear instructions while other teachers have assignments that are difficult to understand. All my teachers have been great with responding to my emails and getting back to me about how to do certain assignments. Getting my assignments done is definitely harder since there are so many distractions at home, but once I start doing it I’m fine.”
- “My teachers have been very good and quick over email. I’ve asked teachers several questions about assignments and all are great about getting back to me. The staff and teachers truly show how willing they are to help us through these confusing times.”
- “Surprisingly easy! I expected it to be crazy and stress me out because I wouldn’t get to see my teachers in person, but all of my teachers were great over email or google hangouts if I had questions and had set up amazing google classrooms! “
- “I think all of the teachers are doing a phenomenal job. I cannot imagine how stressful this is, but they have made sure that all of the students understand the content, and know that they can reach out if needed.”
Many students commented on the variety of different ways teachers have tried to connect and make things understandable. Some mentioned emails, the use of the app Remind, Google Classroom and Google Hangouts. Others have really appreciated professional resources like Khan Academy and TedTalks. And others stressed how much they appreciate teachers stepping outside their comfort zones by producing their own podcasts, conducting Zoom virtual class meetings and a number of teachers, including Coach James, creating their own YouTube Channels.
MOST MEANINGFUL LESSONS
Students also spoke about the quality of assignments and how these assignments not only connected with the curriculum but also taught life lessons and challenged them to reflect on their own lives. Students were eager to share about some of their favorite lessons from the week.
Several shared about a leadership assignment which they read about the life of Christopher Reeve. One shared, “It really made me think about how much I take the small things for granted and how I need to go into life with a more positive attitude.” Another said, “It showed me how much I take for granted and to appreciate the little things, because you never know when they could be taken away from you.” And another, “Christopher Reeve dedicated his life to be thankful and appreciative of all the opportunities life hands him, even after he became a quadriplegic. I feel like this is an easy time to be negative and think “I can’t see my friends and I feel trapped” but reading about Reeve reminded me to be appreciative of what I can do, like go on runs, hikes, and spend time with my family.”
“I was assigned a research paper for my Honors English class with Mrs. Johnson. It was the most thought provoking assignment I was given. It really tested my motivation because getting myself motivated to write is an aspect of myself I am actively working on improving.”
Others appreciated assignments that taught them about themselves. “For my Psychology class with Mrs. Barnes, I had to interview my parents about my infancy (what my personality was like, my temperament, likes, dislikes, habits, etc). Through analyzing the answers of the questions, I was able to see what habits I made as an infant manifested itself into my personality today.” Another shared, “I was assigned a research paper for my Honors English class with Mrs. Johnson. It was the most thought provoking assignment I was given. It really tested my motivation because getting myself motivated to write is an aspect of myself I am actively working on improving.”
Another shared about a different writing assignment. “The most meaningful assignment that I’ve had to do this week was an assignment given to me by Ms. Finstuen for my English class. We had started this assignment while school was still in and were told to finish the assignment digitally; the assignment is titled “Principles of Adult Behavior.” It gave us 25 statements, a list of things to live by, and we had to choose 20 of the statements to write about, then we had to answer the question of what the statements meant to us. This assignment was very thought provoking because I had to think of all these life changing sentences to live by and they even opened my eyes to ways that I need to change myself for the better.”
Several shared about a special opportunity they are having in the FFA program. “I think the most meaningful assignment that I have had this week is for Vet Science, Mrs. Bognuda’s horse is pregnant and we are watching videos of her mare getting ready for birth.” Another shared about the same assignment, “watching these videos really bring our class curriculum to life. Our FFA program has always been a hands on experience but I wouldn’t have expected our teachers during this time to be able to impact us in such a powerful way, but they have.”
“…Mr. Weinberger added in some personal questions into our unit assessment and I thought it was very sweet of him to go out of his way to make sure we were all doing ok.”
Others mentioned an assignment called “the Family Virus” which gave students the opportunity to learn how lessons related to the spread of a virus also can apply to spreading cultures in a society or in a business.
Several shared about a lesson from Mr. Weinberger’s anatomy class. They shared that “we had to watch a video from 2016 on previous viruses the world has experienced and how they were dealt with. This really helped me to understand what was going on right now.” Others appreciated that “…Mr. Weinberger added in some personal questions into our unit assessment and I thought it was very sweet of him to go out of his way to make sure we were all doing ok.” Others shared about several teachers having students set goals and to not waste the opportunities they have been given in the coming weeks.
Our students have had the opportunity to do a lot of self reflection. Here is what some of them have learned lately:
- “I have learned that things can change dramatically within hours. I thought there was no way our school was going to be shut down on Friday, March 13th, but it did. So we just need to appreciate the things we have right now and stay positive.”
- “I have really learned to appreciate what I have. I never thought that I wouldn’t be allowed to go to school, see my friends, and go dance everyday. I have learned to not take the little things for granted. I also have learned a lot about my family. With everyone stuck in their houses, I am spending a lot of quality time with my family and have learned so much about them since I have been very busy the last year.”
- “I have learned that my family doesn’t drive me as crazy as I thought they would, that I love to bake, that I also love painting, and that it is really weird not being busy.”
- “I have learned that it is very important to go outside. This sounds kind of weird, but being locked inside for so long has some detrimental effects, so I have learned to make time to go on walks or to sit outside for some period of time every day. “
- “I have learned that things change so fast, we can’t panic or freak out because we truly never know what will happen next.”
“I have learned that you have to trust the process. Even though things are unclear and there is fear and panic you have to trust that the people in charge will take care of you. Everyone is doing the best they can with the situation and everyone is working hard to help and you have to trust that they are making the right calls.”
- “Beyond school, something I’ve learned these past few weeks is to reach out to people you don’t normally talk to. I’ve been challenging myself to do this and it’s taught me a lot, it’s so easy nowadays to open up your phone and send someone a text or even snapchat like “hey how’s your day going?”. This small gesture can go a long way because you don’t know what kind of day that person is having, and that small gesture can mean a lot to someone who has no one else to talk to. I’ve been able to get to know a lot of people so much better because of these small steps. Especially last week when we didn’t have any schoolwork, most people would spend the entire day on their phones and wouldn’t mind taking time to have a real conversation with someone. “
- “I have slowly learned how to play guitar these last few weeks. It’s been nice, because that’s something I have always wanted to learn how to do; but just never had time to pursue.”
- “I’ve begun to learn a variety of cooking skills that I really didn’t bother learning while school was in session. I became a bigger help around the house, fixing and managing things for my parents that I hadn’t before. I feel more involved with the family, which makes me feel better in general.”
- “These last few weeks I have learned how much time I truly spend with my friends, and how often I eat out. To be stuck in my home with just my family has made me realize that I have neglected spending time with them for awhile.”
- “I have learned that you have to trust the process. Even though things are unclear and there is fear and panic you have to trust that the people in charge will take care of you. Everyone is doing the best they can with the situation and everyone is working hard to help and you have to trust that they are making the right calls.”
- “I have learned that going outside for a little bit each day lifts my mood a lot. I have also come to realize how you don’t always know what is going to happen even if you are trying to plan for the next week.”
“…There isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have a hard practice or a long day at school.”
- “These past few weeks of school closure have taught me to keep a positive and open mindset during these times of uncertainty. I’ve also learned that sometimes things don’t go as planned, such as school closure or the rapid outbreak of the Coronavirus, but it’s how we respond to times like these that matters most. Lastly, I have also learned to never take the little things in life for granted, whether that’s sports practice, hanging out with friends, showing up to school everyday, or even just a run to the grocery store. These things throughout our daily routines are what keep our lives busy and exciting. :)”
- Honestly this break and all of the events surrounding it has single handedly been the most educational experience of my 15 years on earth. Watching my parents and them having to deal with new found responsibilities in their jobs due to the coronavirus I have learned so incredibly much about the importance of a good team not only when things are good, but when they are far from it. My parents have had to make a lot of tough decisions with the challenges brought by the virus and through it all their team has supported them and had their backs. I’ve learned that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, I used to always wish that practice would be canceled and I wouldn’t have to go to school. All I wanted was to sit at home and watch Netflix. Now that is my life, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have a hard practice or a long day at school. Lastly, I’ve learned the importance of flexibility and being able to adapt, and those skills are the only reason I am succeeding in staying busy over this break, things that I had been working on for months had been canceled and I had to find something new to channel that energy into.”
- “I’ve learned that I have taken “being busy” for granted. I had already appreciated school a lot even prior to the closure, but now that I am at home all of the time, I’m extremely bored and am finding new things to do. Before the closure, I was relieved to find any time to relax, and now I seem to have too much time on my hands, which can become frustrating.”
- “Beyond school, I’ve learned how to keep myself calm and entertained during isolation and how to better advocate for myself. My main medication for lupus has shown some promise in treating coronavirus, so it was recently pulled from pharmacies to use exclusively to treat coronavirus patients. I had to contact my doctor and the pharmacy/insurance to make sure I could get a refill of mine so I’d have it before it was all pulled, and those are skills I’ll use for the rest of my life. I have also reinforced optimism and staying positive in times of stress, because worrying never helps and staying calm is best.”
- “I have been able to learn more and more about the family business, and how financially it works. I feel this has been very helpful to learn and that it’ll help me out in the future.”
“…I’ve been spending so much time with my parents, I’ve been able to learn so much from them, who knew!”
- “I’ve learned to cherish my family and friends, that 80’s movies are the best movies to have ever been created, and learned how to be more independent.”
- “Do not take for granted the little things because in one second all that can be gone. Getting to go to a public school is such a blessing that lots of us take for granted, but now once that is taken away from us we really see how good we had things. “
- “I’ve learned that sometimes isolation is exactly what I need to get to know myself more, learn what makes me a better and happier person. Like I said, because of this break I was compelled to take a break from social media for a few days and it has really affected me in a positive way. I’ve been spending more time reading and going for walks instead of spending hours upon hours scrolling through my phone. Plus, since I’ve been spending so much time with my parents, I’ve been able to learn so much from them, who knew!”
While this first week of distance education has been a challenge on a lot of different levels we need to remember that we all are learning a lot about life, about ourselves and about each other. We can do far more than we think we can especially when we are willing to step outside our comfort zone and when we are willing to work with each others. Thank you teachers for all your work. Thank you students for your flexibility and your willingness to adapt. And thank you to our administration for giving guidance and direction during this time. And to everyone, thank you for the grace you have shown others as we all learn and adapt to an ever changing situation.