By Jasmine Brough,
Bruce Peninsula Press
On December 26th Bruce Peninsula District School and St. Edmunds Public School were mandated to temporarily close along with every other school in Ontario due to the rise in pandemic numbers. Therefore online learning became a reality for students K-12. The efficacy of computer learning from home has had mixed results for teachers and students alike.
For grade 11 student Marissa Mielhausen, learning online was a relatively smooth transition – being tech savvy was a big advantage for her when learning from home. However internet issues were a battle. “It’s a constant battle of Wi-Fi between my siblings and I trying to do online school. Then my parents are trying to run their business on that same internet connection.” Despite broadband connection issues Marissa was extremely positive about how she felt her school year was going. She was very complimentary towards her teachers who she could tell were working so hard given the circumstances. Marissa spoke about how she wished she had gotten to finish her Outers year with the annual trip to Algonquin.“Being an Outer and going on those trips is a tradition not only at school but within my family.” Marissa was excited to return back to in-person learning once again.
Like many students right now, Morgan Clark is trying to complete her final year in high school during a pandemic. Morgan described switching to online again as an “oh no” moment for her. Knowing the expectations are higher in grade 12, she was worried it would be harder for her to get all her work done in her comfortable and distracting home setting. “I try to set myself short goals, like get this much done before lunch then work until this point in the afternoon”. Morgan could admit she was missing all those extracurriculars, like being on a sports team, that she would have liked to be a part of in her final year. “It’s a way to step back from school and force yourself to do something active. It’s the whole experience of going on a bus or in cars to the games, it’s just a lot of fun.” Morgan is hoping to pursue biology in her post-secondary studies this fall.
For some teachers, online learning came with learning of its own. In the process of trying to teach her senior kindergarten/grade 1 class online, Connie Radbourne had to learn how to use the online teaching platform. She knows that for students at this age learning online is more than just paying attention to the screen; it’s having a device, knowing how to log on and knowing how to access the resources they are given. She acknowledged the assistance parents had provided for their young children at home. “Of course teaching or learning online has its difficulties but I definitely got some good things out of it too. I feel like I got to know my students a little better.”
After 3 weeks of online French instruction Martha McLay was glad to be back at school on January 25th. Being able to walk from classroom to classroom is a blessing after a few weeks of having to jump around online. “As the weeks went on I learned a lot about how to run the program and use my resources to do more interactive activities online and really engage the students in French games or songs.” Martha reflected on the challenges posed by internet issues both in her home and in many of her students’ households. However Martha wrapped it up well in one relatable sentence, “We all had to make the most of a tough situation”.
Transitioning to teaching online in January didn’t cause a drastic change in Tara Stanton’s course delivery. Since September Tara has been teaching students across the Bluewater School Board entirely online. However, doing her online teaching at school vs. at home has its differences. Just being at school and getting that bit of social interaction with students makes a big difference. While at school, she also plays a role in secondary student support which she was eager to get back to. Reflecting on her new online teaching reality, Tara remarked about how she missed that personal connection she got to have with students in a classroom. Reflecting on a positive side of the pandemic she said “We are so lucky to live here, the fact that we’ve got this beautiful place where we can get outside is pretty remarkable.”
Whether it’s teaching or learning online, everyone is going to have a different approach and experience. Students’ participation in online education is going to shape and define them and their extremely technology-driven world. In times like these it becomes important to stay positive and know that there will be a day when local schools can return to normal. However for the time being, we show admiration for those in the education system making the best of it.