As the school year begins, New Hampshire Public Radio is asking students, teachers and parents to share their stories of what education looks like during coronavirus.
This is part of our initiative COVID & The Classroom, covering what it's like to return to school in unprecedented times.
This week, we asked people: “How is ‘back to school’ different for you this year?”
Here’s what we heard:
“The kids are so resilient! I am teaching high school juniors and seniors and we all have expressed how much we really wish to be together in a real classroom setting, but we are making the most of the tiny online experience. My students are so helpful with my lack of virtual teaching knowledge right now and I know with time it will get easier to navigate all that Google Classroom offers. I just really miss the ease and spontaneity that being with students in a classroom offers. I'd rather teach with a mask and major precautions in person.”
- Jenny Cullen, Dover
“My 6 year old went back to school today at New Franklin School in Portsmouth. She wore a mask with no issues and was delighted to go back to her school, although it was very different. She was super excited. Her teacher is amazing, and was my son's 1st grade teacher as well. I feel strongly that parents need to be the barometer for how the kids feel, too. If we are outwardly upset that will guide their feelings - just trying to be as positive as possible. She was so brave. We are doing a lot of extra childcare and camp programs too to supplement the lack of in person learning, so the costs there are really exorbitant- but as a family of two working parents we don’t really have a choice.
- Eva Marino, Portsmouth
“I have decided to teach remotely in a school that is returning at full capacity. This year will be a complete overhaul of my entire art curriculum. In one aspect it’s incredibly daunting and on my best days I can look at it as a chance to innovate what and how I teach. Teaching remotely really makes you evaluate your time and get creative on how to reach everyone in class.”
- Jadi Mercer, Laconia
“Going back to school this year can be described as nothing short of a nightmare. Our district flip-flopped from full in-person learning to full virtual learning over the course of two weeks only weeks before students were supposed to return to school. As a parent in a dual full-time working family with no other family in the area, this is impossible. After attending some eight hours of school board meetings, I still am not swayed that what is happening here with full remote learning for young kids not old enough to be home alone or to direct their learning in any way independently is not only chaotic, difficult, and unprecedented but also the wrong thing morally, logistically, and ethically for our community and our children.
Putting them in community centers instead of with their teachers is just as risky without the rewards of in person education. Charging daycare prices for care that should be available publicly only exacerbates inequality. Every family's situation is different but I feel strongly that every 5 year old is going to be put at a disadvantage to their peers who are learning in person (be it in private schools or neighboring districts) if this full remote learning continues this year which it appears that it likely will. They are only this age once, they only have this opportunity to learn the academic and social emotional skills that will guide them through their childhood now.”
- Alanna Reed, Exeter
“Being a teacher at a school that has gone back in person, I haven't noticed many differences. The hardest part is wearing the mask all day and meeting brand new students who are also wearing masks. I am normally great at learning student names quickly, but this year I am really struggling. I'm trying different ways to get to know my students instead of relying on recognizing their faces.”
- Katie Graham, Newmarket
"I and three other likeminded set of parents arranged for a tutor to help assist with the online, full remote classroom learning. Each day the kids gather at one of our homes, do a full day of online learning, assisted by the tutor to keep them on point. My son, who we have been doing mathematics and handwriting/reading all summer, is bored to tears. But he loves being with the three other kids, so it is all worth it."
-Matthew Owens, Stratham
“I'm a speech and language pathologist working 100% remotely for the several schools and programs I serve. I miss being in person with my speech therapy kids, but most of all I miss the interaction with other teachers and staff. Without the opportunity to drop into classrooms, join a circle time, or help with a child's zipper or lunchbox, I'm less able to interact with all students so they get to know me. I'm less able to connect with music and art teachers, classroom aides, front office staff, and volunteers. I'm less able to brainstorm with colleagues in the hallway about what just happened with a student five minutes ago. It is in these everyday exchanges that I sometimes pass on my most valuable bits of wisdom that can help my students throughout their day, not just during their speech therapy session. For the kids I'm seeing remotely, I know that my therapy is equally effective as what I do in person. But overall I feel less successful professionally because I normally do so much more for my students than what happens in those one on one sessions.”
- Deborah Bennett, Nottingham
“Not much different, as I was home with kids all day anyway. Actually have a little easier time with my husband working at home, so he is present more at the start and end of each day since he’s not commuting. The virus has meant more time at the house rather than getting out to playgrounds and such and, during the spring shutdown, it was hard staying separate from family. My oldest son starts preschool this Friday. Out of concern for the virus, we pulled him out of a Montessori school we were excited to try. This was an agonizing decision as we felt he really needed the school environment and interaction with his peers. Felt like a real loss. We had settled on homeschooling when we learned of another program breaking kids into small groups and moving all activities outside. His friend goes to this school as well. We decided to give it a try.”
- Jessica Dunbar, Bow