COVID-19 Anniversary: Voices in Education

Amanda Peronto, social studies teacher at Valadez Middle School in Placentia, expounds virtual education at a Title I school.

How have your students handled remote and hybrid learning?
Last year, most of them were struggling immensely. But now … kids are resilient. The students are working so hard. They’ve adapted like the teachers have adapted. They are rock stars. They are working hard to be the best that they can.

How have Title I schools, in particular, been affected during the pandemic?
We still distribute food for our students. The parents can come to the school and pick up food for them. The hardest thing for our students has been the lack of technology in their homes. In addition to giving every student a Chromebook, we gave every household Wi-Fi hot spots. Most students did not have Wi-Fi in their homes.

What has been the greatest challenge of teaching virtually?
Supporting students with English-language learning and students who have special needs. In the classroom, I can do a lot of one-on-one time with the kids. When I’m on a Zoom call, it’s more challenging to give one-on-one instruction.

What has been the brightest spot for you?
It is the same joy I get when I’m teaching in person. Seeing their faces, hearing their responses. I can hear them laugh! When I pop on the Zoom call and say, “Hi kids, how are you doing?” they have these big bright smiles that I get to see. The excitement about learning … it’s always been my joy to see kids excited to learn.

Karishma Shristi Muthukumar, a cognitive science major at UC Irvine, organized students to submit essays, photography, and poetry about life in quarantine in “Patience and Pandemic.”

How did the project come about?
It actually started out as a thing called the Patient Project. It focused on what it meant to be a patient, and the goal was to alleviate anxiety and promote community in a setting that can otherwise feel alienating. Before COVID-19, we planned to have undergraduates stationed at the hospital to chat and interact with patients in waiting rooms. After hospitals became overrun, we realized we really couldn’t volunteer there. At the same time, everyone more or less had that waiting room feeling. So we made the move from patients to patience. It began as a summer project, but when we got more than 165 submissions, we moved to publish.

What do you hope readers will take away?
I guess it’s really just in the title: patience. I hope people read this and feel a sense of strength and a sense of patience. As an undergraduate now it has a lot to do with Zoom classes and what feels like a 2D college experience. But working together with other students and creating this journal has been a really special experience. It has given a meaning to the quarantine and provided a really good creative outlet.

Anything else in the pipeline?
We are planning to extend the print journal by creating a community journal, which would be much more interactive. We are hoping that having an interactive website open to anyone will make it more of a conversation and more of a community.

Sculptor and Laguna College of Art and Design instructor Brittany Ryan discusses her experience teaching art remotely.

How do you do your job remotely?
We’ve employed crazy tactics. For sculptures especially, the materials are complex and specific. What we’re doing is (making) elaborate supply kits to hand out to each student. I’ve also developed around 30 instructional videos for each student. I do Zoom calls to critique each of them. I’ve made a whole video on how to properly photograph their projects. I’ve realized that’s often the biggest hurdle— getting students to take proper photos. Sometimes, you just want to dive into their room and see it in real life.

Do you feel like you’re able to connect with your students?
I do miss the high that I get seeing my students in person because I am an extrovert. The happy chemicals aren’t there anymore when it comes to teaching online. It’s always great, though, at the end of the semester when the students come drop off their stuff; they scream, “Oh my gosh! I’m finally seeing you in person!”

Are students ever frustrated with the challenges of studying art this way?
Our experience is probably really (similar). If they’re feeling disconnected, so are we. We all want to be together in the classroom. They want a certain college experience, and we love to provide that. We’re teachers not because we hate it; we’re teachers because we love it.

Facebook Comments