By Amanda Mack, news editor
On Saturday, March 14th, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker closed schools for two weeks. Shortly after, the closure was extended to three weeks, and then it was extended to seven weeks. During the first three weeks of the closure, any work or learning materials sent out by teachers were to be treated as optional/supplemental. This meant that teachers were providing work via google classroom for students to turn in, but they were not required to do it. While teachers and administration highly recommended that students engage in some type of schoolwork each day, they also recognized that this is a challenging time for many, and schoolwork may not be their top priority. With this new idea of optional learning, students at NHS had very different feelings about how much of this supplemental work they wanted to complete. For many students, completing assignments and staying in touch with teachers over the first three weeks with no school helped them to feel a sense of normalcy.
Junior Reese Burns commented on why she continued doing schoolwork, saying, “I did the work to try and prevent the infamous ‘regression’. And to be honest I kind of felt obligated and that if I didn’t do it teachers would be disappointed. ” For other students, if there was no consequence for not doing the work, it seemed pointless.
Junior Sydney King explained that she didn’t do the optional work because she “…thought we were going to be back within the three weeks and the optional work seemed to just be something to keep us busy. I also tend to not have motivation unless it’s something that will impact the grades I have for the class.” Other students found a happy medium between the two options, completing the optional work for some classes, and not others.
As junior Camie Strojny put it, “I only did the optional work for my AP classes because I knew they would help prepare me for exams. With the other work, I knew it wouldn’t count towards my grade in Aspen or my GPA, so I became really unmotivated to do it.” Strojny also noted that although she did not complete the optional work for all of her classes those first three weeks, she has not fallen behind at all.
Regardless of whether students chose to engage in optional learning or not, after those first three weeks, online learning at NHS became mandatory. At this point, school was expected to reopen on May 4th, so that would mean four more weeks of remote learning. A schedule was created and sent out to families explaining when each class would meet. This schedule consisted of three classes per day, each class 40 minutes long. This allowed time for each class to have two class periods per week. From there, individual teachers decided whether they would meet virtually or provide an assignment for each class period. Most teachers met with their class during one of the class periods, and assigned one or more assignments to be completed during the other class period, or whenever the student had time. This new schedule only allowed teachers to engage with their classes two times per week, versus four. This created many challenges for teachers such as how much work to provide, what type of work to provide, and how to keep students engaged through the computer.
As AP Lang and junior English teacher Ms. Edzwald put it, “…the hardest part is not being able to see my students. Not only do I miss seeing and talking with them, but it also makes teaching very difficult. I rely on being able to see faces and reactions to gauge whether a lesson is going well or if they are confused. I miss being able to walk around the classroom and see work in progress and to be able to support them or adjust the lesson.” While it was challenging to teach students through a screen with limited time, the teachers at NHS continued to be there for their students without hesitation.
In the middle of week three of mandatory online learning, Governor Baker announced that all Massachusetts schools will stay closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. While this did not come as a huge shock, it still sparked disappointment among students and teachers. However, the teachers did not let this news bring them or their students down. They continued to provide work, learning materials, and online classes each week. At this point, AP tests were quickly approaching, and while some students were worried that it would be hard to prepare without actually being in school, AP teachers proved that it could be done!
After being asked if it was hard to prepare for ap tests during remote learning, junior Dianny Martinez answered, “I personally found that it was very easy to prepare. This is mainly due to the awesome job my teachers did to make sure their students were given the proper materials in advance. I feel very fortunate my teachers did such an amazing job and it truly shows how much they genuinely care.” Despite the fact that NHS has never had to deal with a school closure this long before, both staff and students continued to work together to make the end of the year great. Thanks to the hard work, time, and care of administration, teachers, students, and family members, NHS was able to provide some regularity during this unusual time.