Teachers and Students Try to Engage on First Day Back

Luna Valayannopoulos-Akrivou, Around School Editor

This year’s first day of school was anything but typical, with the transition to online learning. While students were not able to meet up on campus, CRLS was still able to welcome over 900 new students to the school. Freshman Julliette Coley emphasizes the fact that, “six months ago, around the time the COVID-19 pandemic became major in the United States, I never would’ve expected my first day, never mind potentially my first semester and my first year of high school to be done remotely.” 

Teachers were as nervous as students, as they were tasked with changing their whole curriculum and lesson plans to fit the remote learning guidelines. Ms. Kristen Newton, a physics teacher, said that, “We are literally rebuilding everything we are teaching from scratch. Everything about the way that learning happens has to change.” 

With that in mind, teachers have been working all summer to try to make the transition as smooth as possible, and finding ways to build strong classroom communities. Mr. Alejandro Hernadez, a Spanish teacher at CRLS, emphasizes that, “I hope that sharing activities with students ahead of time can help them be aware of what is going on and process information at their own pace.”

Whether it is through breakout rooms, or ice breakers, teachers are trying to engage their students in fun learning activities. Furthemore, teachers are attempting to find alternative ways to build connections with their students. On this note Mr. Andrew Kreuser, a 9th grade English teacher adds that, “I want to give credit to my colleague, Ms. Natasha Labaze, who shared the following quote [from Dr. Christopher Emdin] from over the summer: ‘We teach students before curriculum. We reach souls before standards. We teach character before content. In that order or it is not really teaching at all.’”

Teachers are attempting to find alternative ways to build connections with their students.

A struggle that teachers were faced with was making classes interactive and engaging while being on Zoom. Axelle Yanakis-Carrol ’23 finds that, “I like the way my teachers have set up remote learning. It’s nicely balanced between participation and assignments.” 

Participation this year is definitely one of the most weighing criteria for teachers. Without being in person, and sometimes unable to see the students face, it is important for the teachers to know if their students are engaged and understanding the topics. Zoom has an abundance of features that can help monitor participation. Students are able to virtually raise their hand, or type their answers in the chat if they feel more comfortable. Moreover, participation can help students learn from each other and create stronger class bonds. 

While this year may seem particularly hard and overwhelming, it is important to understand that all students are going through the same experience. Laila Clarke ’22 advises that it can be helpful to make new friends online and while “it might take a while, there is probably someone who also needs a friend.” 

Although this year’s first day of school was not a typical one, Eytan Carlon ’23 can point out some similarities as he explains, “The first day of school was exactly like I expected it. This is because the first day of school is always the same. There isn’t any work and it’s focused on getting to know your peers.” Although the school year has been remote, it can be reassuring to know that some things have not changed.