Teachers and students struggle to connect in online learning

Amanda Kohutek, Reporter

“Any help would be greatly appreciated.” 

And send. Yet another email sent by a student hoping to gain some portion of the help they’re used to receiving from teachers in past years in person. 

This doesn’t even cover the other half of the coin, with those same teachers sending countless emails to students, most often for missing work. 

With the majority of students in online classes for the 2020-21 school year, typical understandings and communication between students and teachers have been cut off, and miscommunication is occurring more often, according to juniors, freshmen, and teachers alike. 

“Unfortunately, with primarily remote learning, students do not have as many opportunities to ask questions or to clarify instructions,” AP English Language and Composition teacher Tonji Lewis said. “During a normal year, they would not only ask questions in class but stop by at lunch or after school.”

The lesser ability to ask questions easily this year is coupled with a variety of different ways to submit assignments, most often different for each teacher. According to AP student and junior Nicole Tacconi, uploading these assignments can often be harder than necessary. 

“So many teachers require them (file submissions) to be from a scanner app instead of just taking photos, and it takes so long,” Tacconi said. “I don’t have a Macbook, so I have to email them to myself, and that takes five whole minutes. And then if I’m taking a test, they require me to upload it within five minutes and my computer’s really slow, so sometimes it’ll take more than five minutes for my emailed photos to go through.”

As students struggle to figure out how to submit their work, they also must worry about how much work it is that they have to submit. 

“The amount of homework is very disproportional,” freshman Sean Monroe said. “Some days I’ll get no work whatsoever, and then on other days, I’ll get three hours of work. For one class.”

 Yet another problem arises for teachers and students when it comes to online interaction via Zoom. 

 “I have my camera on for almost all of my classes,” Tacconi said. “But it’s so annoying. But in one class, if anybody turns their camera off in the middle of class, she’ll be like, ‘Are you there?’ But sometimes I’m just going to the restroom, right?”

But there are two sides to every argument, and according to Lewis, teachers have reason to struggle with seeing blank screens instead of their students’ faces. 

“I typically read the faces of my students to know if they are understanding a concept,” Lewis said. “This lets me know how much depth to go in or how many examples to use. With black, blank screens, it is hard to gauge.”

Past those specific problems, there is a larger inconsistency and misunderstanding about the way Canvas pages are set up in general. According to Lewis, all teachers follow the same district guidelines for their Canvas pages. But Monroe said he doesn’t get the same picture. 

“Once again it’s just the fact that there’s no general idea that all the teachers use, it’s different for everybody,” Monroe said. 

Even if they are connected online, there’s a social disconnect between kids and their teachers greater than ever before this year, according to Tacconi. 

“It’s just really sad because I have some really cool teachers this year, and I’m not really close to any of them,” Tacconi said. “When I’m applying to college, I’m not gonna have any college recommendations. None of my teachers really personally know me. For so many of my classes, I’m really the only person with my camera on. Really thinking about it, teachers probably don’t know like 50 percent of their students because of that.”

From all of these miscommunications and problems, students and teachers are left to find creative solutions and work together. 

“I would definitely appreciate some surveys,” Tacconi said. “Like some direct class surveys saying, ‘What do you like about my class?’ and what you don’t.” 

No matter what, students like Monroe agree that steps toward better communication need to be taken for the sake of both teachers and students. 

“I have outright told English teachers, ‘Hey, I’m stressed out especially because of this class, man,’” Monroe said. “And they’ll say, ‘Oh, but it’s so simple. It shouldn’t be stressing you out.’ Oh. I wish I knew that.”