Unsigned: Understanding Necessary Between Students and Staff

   No one could have predicted this time last year that the world would be in this situation. COVID-19 has put great strain on the lives of everyone — economically, socially, and emotionally. As far as education goes, UC High students and faculty have witnessed firsthand the momentous changes that are required to maintain public health while continuing education. With this has come a great learning curve on behalf of both pupils and instructors. In order to maintain student and staff wellness during these uncertain times, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding must be exercised on behalf of both parties during this unprecedented school year.

   Public education is starkly different from years past, with many of the defining factors being either postponed or cancelled. Interscholastic sports, school dances, clubs, and peer interactions — all factors that engage students with their school community — simply are not feasible amid a pandemic. As acknowledged by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), these changes can contribute to teenagers “…feeling loss or distress […] during this time.” With students struggling emotionally, it is paramount to be understanding of the burdens of others during this time, and to uplift those who are coping with this emotional weight.

   Online school itself presents further emotional burdens and other unique challenges. Many students rely on the aforementioned social experiences to engage with and understand academic content. Furthermore, this near-experimental form of learning can be unfamiliar and even unfavorable with regards to individual learning styles. Senior Gaurav Bharti stated, “In an actual class setting, [students] are given the opportunity to get to know [their] teacher and peers through small interactions beyond coursework. Without that, in some ways I’m forced to focus [on the coursework,] but [I also] lack motivation.”

   The emotional weight that COVID-19 has placed upon Americans in addition to the difficult adjustment to online school can be taxing on student performance. Because of this, Bharti said, “I think educators have to evaluate [students’] endurance.” The education system — officials and students alike — are truly experiencing a learning curve with this new form of school; therefore, a certain degree of floundering should be accepted and forgiven by educators. Now is not the time to be intimidating students with overbearing and cumbersome teaching methods; now is the time to extend kindness and support.

   But online schooling does not adversely affect students alone; educators, too, are finding themselves overwhelmed with lesson preparation, grading, and technology use. Teachers, too, are adjusting to the same strange circumstances as students. Chemistry Teacher Maureen Quessenberry said,The biggest challenge in implementing distance learning this year has been the Zoom meetings… Trying to get students to participate in class has also been challenging… The amount of multitasking that I need to do during a meeting is really difficult.” Orchestrating this foreign method of education can have equally adverse effects on teachers’ wellbeing, too. Quessenberry shared, “I do not feel at all qualified or capable to make the kinds of changes right now.” The student body must recognize the amount of pressure that educators are under, and thereby acknowledge the shared burdens that they shoulder. Just as educators must show compassion and forgiveness to struggling students, students have a responsibility to support their instructors during these challenging times. Through empathy and kindness, educators and students can bear this storm hand-in-hand.

   Given the sheer amount of uncertainty that educators and students are facing together, success during this historic year must come from collaboration. Special effort and support must be provided from both parties. Quessenberry affirmed that proactive communication is one of the most helpful things that students can provide. To counter the disadvantages of distance-learning, students must “…talk to [their] teachers just like [they] would if they were there,” she stated. As for educators, Bharti suggested that they may need to “…reevaluate the endurance a class has for laborious work…” given how draining online school can be. By adapting to each other’s needs during these challenging times, a strong support system can be made in order to shoulder the burdens of all.

   Ultimately, this fight is not between student and teacher, but a battle that can only be won together. The emotional and educational burdens of all must be recognized and addressed with empathy, understanding, and forgiveness in order to make it through together. With the district making the difficult decision to remain online, teachers and students have become each other’s greatest allies during these trying times. This unique fight can only be won if it is faced with unity.