Teachers support students online, change curriculum

Maggie Arden, Editor in Chief

With the school district switching education to online learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, both teachers and students are adjusting to a new form of learning. From using Google Teams to Zoom, teachers are getting creative with their communication with students in their “online classrooms.”

Washoe County has put their district learning online for all regular level classes, but honors and AP teachers have the ability to adjust their curriculum that they are pushing out to students. Currently, many teachers are using Microsoft Teams to upload content for students, and others are using Zoom to meet face-to-face with their students. Teacher David Ross is using a website, which he has had for nearly 20 years, and is trying to adjust to the curriculum change as best he can.

“In my U.S. history class, I am not allowed to choose my curriculum,” Ross said. “One person in the district is making all the social studies lessons (k-12).  In Senior Seminar, I am following the directive to give only review based lessons. Starting Monday, I am going to give new material, but I was told to issue new material ‘patiently.’ I am not sure what that means.”

Some of the teachers are subtracting from their original lesson plans to make sure students are getting the information they need to prepare for AP exams.

“To say the least, I am going bare bones,” teacher Richard Clark said, “just the important topics we need to finish before the AP exam. I am in the fun stuff: rights, Congress, Presidential power, but I cannot teach or do some of my fun lessons. I am trying to support the students with videos, podcasts and other supplemental things.”

Ross said that the biggest challenge is that he is not allowed to teach and hold students accountable. Clark has also faced challenges based on the diversity of student’s situations at home and their reactions to what is going on.

“Balancing students who are bored, facing economic or health issues, and answering questions I have no answers to [is a challenge],” Clark said. “Many of the seniors are done.  It is hard for them to get motivated. It is day to day. It is getting feedback from my students; it is reaching out to other colleagues from across the nation, via social media, for ideas.”

Despite having a different format for the classroom, Clark is still tying in an aspect of class that he had before. He is bringing in guest speakers via Zoom to speak to his We The People and AP Government students.

“I love guest speakers,” Clark said. “It allows me to make what I teach more tangible. For where we are now, I am just trying to break the monotony.”

Teachers are providing aid to students in any way they can, with teachers welcoming students to reach out and talk to them for support. However, some staff are frustrated with the way the situation has been handled, adding to the worries of staff and students.

“Students are really worried about their grades,” Ross said. “At the time of this writing I have no answers for kids. Kids are doing assignments and getting no grade benefit.  The district’s failure to address this concern from the outset demonstrates the problem of admin making decisions from 30,000 feet. They are completely out of touch with what matters to students.”


Update: The district released new information regarding grading, and students will be able to work with their teachers to raise their third quarter grade by completing online assignments. However, students cannot be penalized for any online assignments.