Cobbler Teachers Persevering Through 2020

Teachers at Central have had a lot to adjust to in 2020, from distance learning to new curriculum to new learning management systems. What do they think about it all?

By Gracie Lemer and Talon Tippmann

The 2020-2021 school year has been defined by uncertainty and students’ struggle. With schedules being uncertain and school events being changed and altered to accommodate social distancing, it feels like students can’t catch a break from this strange year. However, students aren’t the only ones who are dealing with change and struggle at this time. Teachers have also been enduring challenges this year that they have never experienced before, making the 2020-2021 school year extremely unorthodox compared to other school years.

We have found that a common theme throughout Central’s teachers is that they are having troubles motivating their students to do their work. “I’d say the biggest change I’m noticing lately is that it’s more difficult to keep students engaged,” English teacher Kerri Severson-Stover told us. Continuing, Stover states, “I’ve been thinking of cutting out an entire book because it’s harder to teach students and keep them engaged when they have a lot of work to do at home,” implying that there just isn’t enough working time in class to get everything done.

This issue isn’t exclusive to just English classes, however. This has been a widespread issue amongst all teachers of all different subjects. “Each of us [math teachers] are going through a new textbook doing new problems, writing new exams, organizing new standards, creating new homework sets and doing them, and being trained on all this online with people from the textbook,” math teacher Brynn Birkeland states. Birkeland has also found issues even covering the essential concepts from her classes. “You just have to be ready at all times to get the basics covered,” she said.

The removal and changing of content was common among teachers, who had to alter and cut lessons in order to fit their classes’ content within students’ shortened schedules and distance learning days. “Lessons are majorly scaled down, for example two whole units from [my] World Lit class had two lessons cut out completely. Level 3 slowed me down, and so did Level 2,” English teacher Mary Mahoney states.

In contrast, a few teachers have found that distance learning has actually improved teaching conditions. “We have cut things but we’ve also gone into more depth over topics I would have previously just briefly mentioned or skimmed over,” said Social Studies teacher Dana Hicks, implying that distance learning has some benefits to both teachers and students. Despite this comment, we found that teachers generally regard the change in content as less than favorable.

With every teacher having to teach at distance sometime this year, the difference in subjects has really been highlighted. Some teachers feel that their subjects can be easily transferred to a learning management system while others have struggled. Hicks continues, “I’ll be honest, Social Studies can be completely built around the idea of distance learning.” In contrast, math teacher Nicole Bisgaard has faced challenges with the new learning system. “Although I can’t speak for other content, I do feel as if it is more difficult to teach a content that is as procedural as math while distance learning.” However, Bisgaard isn’t convinced that distance learning has only been detrimental to her classes. “With that being said, I think that distance-learning one day a week can benefit my content in the future,” she continues.

From the teachers we interviewed, we have found that most teachers see both pros and cons to having to teach distance learning. “​We have certainly added a ton of new features and ways to teach this year, which I am excited about and I think students have adjusted quite well,” Birkeland states in contrast to her prior statements regarding the challenges regarding distance learning.