Teachers React to First Week of Distance Learning

Clare Canavan and Olivia Bratton

Hershey High School began online distance learning on Monday, March 30, 2020. These changes are causing teachers to learn new ways to run their classroom and help students from a distance. 

The schedule breaks the school day down into two days with a tutoring day in between. Each period is one hour long running from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a lunchtime “office hour.”

Teachers are operating their classes in a variety of different ways. Some are choosing to use their time to go live with students on Zoom while others are posting assignments and videos for students to do whenever they choose before the deadline. 

With any new change, there are always benefits and challenges. Teaching on a new platform during a stressful time has created some obstacles for students and staff to overcome.  

Accounting teacher Mike Gustantino and others have run into difficulty getting materials for their students.

“The main difficulty was getting all of my students access to online textbooks from the publisher.  A lot of students were not able to obtain their textbooks and workbooks. Luckily, our publisher helped us out with eBooks and online workbooks,” said Gustantino. 

In addition, the students and teachers, like Spanish teacher Lynn Shirk, have had to quickly become familiar with a new online video platform, Zoom.

“I also have trouble determining how best to use the face-to-face time that we have in a Zoom class,” said Shirk. “Since I teach a world language, I want my students to practice speaking as much as possible but it is a lot more difficult to have a conversation when you have muted microphones and technological glitches along the way.” 

Many teachers have been able to adapt and see the bright side of the adjusted learning and virtual time together. Students and teachers have been eager to jump into virtual learning to put some normalcy back into their lives during this time of uncertainty. 

According to English Teacher Christopher Boggess, “I assumed most students would resist coming back to online school and doing the work, but I’ve had students tell me they were really bored and appreciate having something to do now.”  

Similarly, Gustantino agreed that students are eager to have semblance of structure, and his classroom smoothly transitioned to online learning. 

“A lot of my material can transfer over to the online format pretty seamlessly,” said Gustantino. 

This time away from the classrooms may also impact how teachers run their class in the future. 

Shirk said she will likely be more organized once students return to HHS.  “ I am getting used to keeping a rolling agenda for each class on Canvas. I have been meaning to do that for a while but now I am really seeing the advantages that this tool provides to students,” said Shirk. 

As schools across Pennsylvania are closed indefinitely, Hershey High School will continue to implement their distance learning schedule, and students and teachers will continue to stay connected by learning online. 

Distance learning is new for every single student and teacher. This means all of Hershey High School is learning not only school material, but new things about themselves and their peers. Boggess is using Zoom for more than instruction.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is something I already knew but was reminded of this week. I love my students! I seriously miss them so much. The biggest reason I’m doing a required Zoom session next week is because I miss my students and want to see their faces and hear how they’re doing.” said Boggess. “I’ve laughed and teared up at Flip Grids they turned in.”