How COVID-19 Has Changed Our School

Staff have changed the curriculum, teachers have adapted to their new coursework and teaching, and how students are adjusting and coping with a different lifestyle.

Rose Taylor, S1 Journalism Student

Since the beginning of the new COVID school year, students were greeted with flexibility and compassion from their teachers and administrators while trying to figure out where they stand in their brand new classes and brand new lifestyle. But still, many students are having trouble paying attention, handing in assignments on time, and actively participating in class.

What has COVID-19 done to the academic world? Stunted students’ educational growth, reformed curriculums and schedules, severely decreased student/staff mental wellness, among other related facets, across the globe.

In an attempt to try and remedy the struggles the previous school curriculum had created since quarantine began in 2020, Curriculum Director Ms. Jessica Cangelosi-Hade along with other staff members have been formulating a brand new curriculum that could balance both following COVID-19 guidelines and accommodating effective learning. 

According to Ms. Cangelosi-Hade, she and her team yearly revise the curriculum during summer vacation already. One recent revision included the United States History 1 course, which allows for more open-ended questions that get students to think more broadly with more choices given to them while they complete their assigned content. 

“With the hybrid schedule though,” Ms. Cangelosi-Hade said, “we figured it would be most helpful to offer course information in a more direct, manageable approach with formative work.” Similarly, a lot of summative assessments have been replaced with projects and other open-ended assignments to insure assessment integrity. 

Additionally, with kids being in school or at home, finding ways to effectively engage them is tough, so the new curriculum stresses that teachers focus solely on major points in their courses so that they can teach the required content as well as extra supplementary content if time permits it.

It’s also been really good for me because I’ve been able to figure out how best I learn– not to say that it wasn’t hard at first, but it’s better now.”

— Ava Laukaitis, sophomore

There have been many changes made and put into action for the purpose of ensuring that students still learn effectively, but the other side to it is that students have to follow through with it themselves

Ms. Shengwen Lo is a new Mandarin teacher at Central, with 10 years of teaching already under her belt, experiencing the new curriculum from a staff-standpoint firsthand. “With some people at home,” she says, “it’s very difficult to observe their work and get students to interact with each other.” 

Ms. Lo also teaches other Mandarin courses, spanning ones that teach freshmen to seniors, and notices that younger students are much more difficult to engage with and teach than older students who are more outgoing and willing to learn. Additionally, she’s also noticed that her online students are struggling the most when it comes to turning in assignments and displaying their learning progress, most likely because it’s much more difficult for those students to self-discipline and demonstrate self-control. As a teacher, she feels as though her students might need more guidance to get used to working and learning effectively in this strange circumstance.

As for students, the new school year has been a mix of benefits and challenges. Andrew Lombardo, a sophomore at Central who has followed both the hybrid and full-virtual schedule, acknowledges that while it’s much easier to cheat work, it’s also much easier to work at your own pace. 

Ava Laukaitis, a full-virtual sophomore student acknowledges that she has been able to discover how she learns best while at home, and that it’s good for her to be able to relocate whenever she wants as opposed to sitting still in a desk all day. She has also been able to discover new hobbies, such as painting, and now has more free time to do as she pleases. 

“It’s also been really good for me because I’ve been able to figure out how best I learn– not to say that it wasn’t hard at first, but it’s better now,” she said.

However, although such benefits come with the new school setup, there have been issues as well. One of Andrew’s concerns is that communication between teachers and students is incredibly difficult and confusing, stating that one of his teachers doesn’t even read emails past noon on some days, so if a student is struggling they can’t reach out and get the help they need in time. 

“The biggest problem with school,” he says, “is that some classes aren’t able to work as well as others. Like, I’m in Robotics 1 right now, we basically can’t do anything normally. We’re supposed to be in person working on the robots.”

Ava’s concerns also lay in the fact that courses are much stranger and difficult to learn from this year, noting that in the beginning of the year, virtual-students were like a second thought. Teachers neglected to teach them and instead left that teaching up to their students or the material they assigned them. Existing communication struggles didn’t help her, either.

 “I don’t really know how to ask teachers questions because I don’t really know who they are, and being fully virtual, teachers don’t really know me, which stresses me out,” she said. 

From the students’ perspective, it was also easy to notice that some teachers simply weren’t used to using technology for their courses, and they ended up being thrust into learning that was solely based on using technology, which caused issues earlier in the year. 

Ava recalls noticing this earlier. “Like, one of my teachers, he designed his course to be done only on paper– that’s just how he prefers to teach. You can tell that he was still having a hard time doing everything through the computer,” she said.

In attempts to cope with and/or overcome these struggles, some students have simply opted to put as much effort into their assignments as they can in hopes that, while not knowing how much a teacher expects from them, it might suffice. Others have opted to try and keep in touch as much as possible, or to ask questions and fill out forms emailed to them by staff. However, the truth is, with this brand new independence given to students, the process of learning is going to be a struggle regardless of how much staff worked on creating a viable curriculum. 

Ms. Cangelosi-Hade acknowledges this. “Students have had to completely reprogram their brains– their brains that just aren’t developed enough to self-discipline as well as adult brains do,” she said. 

Due to this, many students have fallen behind by neglecting their assignments, failing to attend class, and ignoring inquiries asking them to participate, completely negating the work that Ms. Cangelosi-Hade, her team, and Central staff have done to try and make the content of this year as accessible and as ‘learn-able’ as possible.

With that being said, there are two sides to every coin. This state that we are in right now is that of a learning process. There are bound to be conflicts as well as benefits like those previously stated, and while it may feel very hopeless in the moment, perhaps it might feel a bit better to know that you are not alone in your struggle, regardless of whether you are a student or staff, young or old, child or parent.