COVID-19 Affects Staff at the Elementary and Middle Schools

By: Trisha Brahmachari — National and International News Editor

As Covid-19 continues to flip daily life upside down, SHS staff and students have had to make serious modifications to accommodate CDC and DESE guidelines, ensuring safety for all students and staff members. 

The SPS’ hybrid learning option allows most students to attend school for half of the week, with the remaining half to be online via Zoom. 

However, there are also students who have opted to go completely remote. This drastic change has without a doubt had many effects on the students and staff of Sharon Middle School as well as the elementary schools.

“I can confidently say I don’t take anything for granted in school anymore. I treasure every day I get to be with my students,” said Ms. Cheryl Sullivan, a kindergarten teacher at Cottage Street Elementary School. 

With the new remote/hybrid learning style, teacher and student interaction has decreased considerably. “My favorite thing about being a teacher is interacting with students … I love when a conversation naturally digresses down an interesting path, and then following that path to see where it leads. I love walking around the room to help students working in a group and hearing their own original ideas, which then teach me something new,” said Mr. Andrew Marrone, a social studies teacher at Sharon Middle School. 

“These are the things I love about being a teacher, and right now, they are not quite the same,” Marrone added. 

With the loss of physical interaction between students and teachers, it has become significantly more difficult for teachers to make connections with their students. “I miss really getting to know my students. I miss those little conversations you have on the way into or out of class. I miss getting off topic in the middle of a lesson and laughing together. It’s so much harder to make those connections through a computer screen,” said Ms. Kathleen Kaplan, a math teacher at Sharon Middle School. 

“Because of our hybrid model, there is a rigidity and structure required that suppresses many of the opportunities for these natural moments,” said Marrone. 

There are also far less opportunities for a teacher to make class fun and show their personalities to their students as well. “I feel like I am not my true self as a teacher. I feel so bound to these new structures and requirements that it has affected my personality as a teacher. Students know me as a silly teacher, and while I am still able to use humor throughout my day, I’m still not at my best,” said Marrone. 

Additionally, teachers have had to alter their style of teaching in response to hybrid learning. “In order to teach the hybrid students and the fully remote students at the same time, my style of teaching has become much more structured and teacher directed,” said Kaplan.

 “Hybrid/remote learning also limits our ability to include hands-on activities and limits the effectiveness of student directed activities, so in order to move the curriculum forward I have resorted to a more traditional style of teaching,” she added. 

Music at the elementary schools has also taken quite a turn. “We are able to meet with fifth grade instrumental students, but we cannot start fourth grade instrumental lessons at this time,” said Ms. Lisa Gilman, a music teacher for the elementary schools. 

“Many of my favorite lessons have to be put on hold for the time being, but maybe this shift in direction will allow me to create lessons that could become new favorites,” added Gilman. 

It’s also more challenging to ensure that students are picking up information online.“It’s more difficult for teachers to know if students are understanding the material and switch gears on the fly. We’ve lost some flexibility,” said Kaplan. 

 “Nowadays, I am seeing some students are not as engaged in their learning as before: they turn their screens off, so I don’t know whether they are paying attention; they may be looking in another direction – maybe at another device, maybe at something unrelated to the lesson,” added Gilman. 

On top of all this, technology isn’t always the most cooperative. “Many students have glitchy internet connections. They get bumped out of the meeting repeatedly and/or have to turn their cameras off in order to hear well,” said Mrs. Diana Kinney, a fifth grade teacher at Cottage Street School. 

However, although not ideal, technology has made learning during these tough times possible. “We are very fortunate that we have the technology to connect with colleagues, students, family and friends, since we can’t be with so many of them in person,” said Gilman.

Prioritizing the safety of students and staff has introduced a new order to the Middle and Elementary schools. “Covid-19 has given safety a whole new meaning.  We diligently follow guidelines around social distancing and sanitizing to ensure that we get to come back in person the next day and go home to our loved ones healthy,” said Sullivan. 

“We are all in the same boat, adapting to this new way of teaching and learning, and we are grateful for the support of many of our parents, as well as each other,” said Gilman. 

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