by Joseph Sweeney | editor-in-chief
With many students bound to their computer screens, art and photography teacher Analisa Shinn reflects on what made previous school years different from this one.
“To say that it’s been a weird year is kind of an understatement, but, then again, it has been a weird year for everybody,” Shinn said. “It’s definitely challenging, more so teaching my online people because, when they’re here in person, it is a lot easier for me to check for understanding, and I can literally look at what they are doing and get a good idea of if they understand it or not, whereas if they’re online, especially if they’re asynchronous, it’s really hard to do that.”
But many students have been found to take advantage of the current system put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students have been caught creating their own system of “hybrid learning,” where they will take certain classes online or asynchronously, and show up in-person for others.
“I really didn’t notice it until this current semester, and it’s not so much by one class period at a time, it’s more so by day,” Shinn said. “Like, I have a few students who, I have noticed are here on the days I don’t teach them, but then choose to work either synchronously or asynchronously from home on the days that I would teach them. One of my students is participating in VASE, Visual Arts Scholastic Event, and he hasn’t been showing up to my classes. He has been attending the Zoom, but again, it’s easier when he’s in-person with me and I can talk him through things. I have been having to seek him out on our opposite days, when I know he is attending class [in-person], and take time out of my schedule and my conference to hunt him down and get him to do what he needs to do. It’s just been additional frustration on on-top of everything else this year.”
Offenders have not been pinpointed in a specific demographic within the school, however, and many teachers find these situations hard to deal with along with all of the other changes going on on-campus this year.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a report that filters this information by grade, just by in-person or virtual. If I were to guess, I would say it is really about even for each grade level,” attendance clerk Julie Dyer said. “We notice there are more students that choose to stay home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is probably due to the length of the classes on those two days.”
While some students have argued that hybrid learning is beneficial to their education, it is still a violation of district policy, and would be forced to choose between either full-time remote or in-person learning if reported.
“The reason I stay at home is because of photography,” senior David Zendajas said. “I like taking photos wherever I like instead of being stuck at school and taking photos at school, out in the field, or in the classroom. At home I get more variety to where I get to shoot from, like locations. Going back to school, the classes I struggled with the most, like anatomy, that requires a lot of studying, I come back to school, so I can focus on that class a lot more instead of getting distracted at my house. At home, economics, photography, college algebra, like my easy classes, I can just chill at home and do whatever I have to learn about.”
Though less common, consequences have also been laid out for those attempting hybrid learning taking place across one day.
“If it is happening on the same day, like a student coming in-person for one class, then doing virtual for another, without checking out, then this is truancy and they would be called in,” Dyer said.
As many teachers have their focus split between teaching both types of classes, it is not uncommon for them to look the other way in regards to students they know are hopping between formats, provided that said students are excelling in their class.
“My photography teacher, Mrs. Shinn, was mad at first because I’m one of her favorite students in taking photos and editing; I’m really good at that,” Zendejas said. “She said that needs me in the classroom [though]; she wants to see my edits more often and see how I do them, but I don’t want to do it with her. She was kind of frustrated with it, but, as time went on, she was okay with it, and she just let me be. I feel like they don’t really care because it’s like ‘oh, they’re a senior, they’ve been keeping up with their work, and their grades are good.’”
Certain students have also been found to take advantage of hybrid learning for non-academic purposes, even if it means getting to be home only slightly earlier.
“I switch off: I come Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,” a senior said. “Tuesdays and Thursdays I have English and we usually end early anyways, so I just stay home so I can relax earlier.”
For those switching from online to virtual classes, it is encouraged that they notify their counselor before doing so to eliminate any possible confusion. Students that are exposed or test positive for COVID-19 will be coded as quarantine as well to explain to teachers their sudden shift to remote learning.
“A teacher will notify the attendance office if they come across a student that is listed as In-Person and only showing up virtually or vice versa,” Dyer said. “At that point we will call the students’ parents to verify which classification they would like to be, so that it can be updated in Skyward. We ask them to pinpoint one or the other and discourage them from going back and forth”
Students are also reminded not to take advantage of the prospects of asynchronous learning. Though set in place by the Texas Education Agency to help students regain some of the instructional time lost since the pandemic began, the offer has been used by students for more than its intended purposes.
“I feel like with online school I have more time and I can take my time with my work,” another senior said. “I’m definitely hanging out with my friends a lot more now that I’m online, because I’m able to school more on my schedule.”
No matter their method of instruction, every student is encouraged to be communicative with each of their teachers and help alleviate some of the stresses that this pandemic has caused.
“This is a year unlike any other, and I know teachers and administration alike are, well, we’re doing our best to survive and to get all of our students to cross that proverbial finish line at the end of the year,” Shinn said. “I really think at some point we have to not put more blame on the students or on the administration, and really look at the students who are manipulating the system, and go ‘okay, why is this happening, and how can we stop this from happening?’ But, even contacting parents doesn’t help if those parents are super-busy working, and, as far as they know, maybe the kid is attending class, so it’s just a difficult situation all around. Us teachers, we’re here for our students however we can be. I know that we’re putting literal blood, sweat, and tears into this year and I just wish that our students would understand that we do want them to succeed.”