First Day of School Reaction Pieces
August 26, 2020
On August 24 Fauquier County Public School (FCPS) students and teachers returned to school through all virtual instruction. Find out how they felt about their first day back.
First Day of School: Teacher Reactions
When teachers prepared for their student’s first day back to school in the past, the to-do list probably consisted of completing required professional development, creating lessons, collaborating with peers and setting up classrooms. However, this year, a whole new item was added to the list: dealing with a national pandemic.
Aug. 24 marked the first day of virtual instruction for teachers and students for the 2020-21 school year. Previously, teachers began their day with a flock of students filling their classrooms, this day they worked from an empty classroom, teaching to a screen full of students.
Many teachers stated that seeing their students across a screen was not the same as seeing them in person. Math teacher Cheri Pascoe said, “I like to talk to and greet each student as they walk in the classroom, and it is harder to do this online. I can tell how a student’s day is going by how they are walking down the hallway to get to class and how they respond to my hello, and I am not used to doing this online.”
English teacher Julia Follendore added, “Usually by the end of the day, I know the names of my students and have identified their names with the faces. Virtual meetings have made that process more difficult.”
Despite these difficulties, teachers still found joy in “seeing” their students’ faces again. “It was hard not being face-to-face, but I am glad I was able to at least see them,” said physical education (PE) teacher Catherine Anderson. English teacher Jennifer Major agreed, saying that she “can’t wait to get to know each of them.”
Most teachers spent the day welcoming students back and going over plans for the class. They included ice breaker activities to better gauge who each student is as a person and also went over assignments, meeting times and online rules and expectations.
Major, for example, stated her plan to use break out rooms where she can “talk with the students in small groups” and “hear their ideas and thoughts.” In addition, history teacher Charles Kieth described how he will use his synchronous days to teach main ideas and critical thinking questions through videos he calls “Mr. Keith LIVE!”
Although virtual learning holds exciting opportunities for the classroom, teachers worry about the challenges that pair with these conveniences. “Since I will not be able to see how the students are working through the [math] problems, I will not be able to quickly identify which students are getting frustrated with the material like I would if they were in my classroom,” said Pascoe. “The students will have to make sure they ask questions and let me know if I am going too fast or if they are not understanding what we are doing.”
Another subject of concern is teaching PE. “The students have to take ownership in staying active at home” and be “honest in completing their activity log,” said PE teacher Robert Glascock.
Additionally, Anderson, who teaches ninth grade PE, said that she wanted her student to feel confident in class since they are new to high school. “Everyone is nervous starting a new school year and moving schools can be hard,” said Anderson. “ It is definitely not going to be easy doing PE online but we will make it work and have fun teaching.”
Although challenges may be ahead, teachers are ready to persevere. “We will make it work and the students will learn what they need to learn,” said Pascoe. “I will continue to adjust what we do and how we do it so make it work for all of my students just like I would do if they were here.” Keith added that the situation is “not ideal, but doable,” saying that most importantly, “We must stay positive.”
First Day of School: Student Reaction
The rising sun shines on the Fauquier High School parking lot as cars pull in from all directions. Students leaping from buses and running from cars greet each other with energy for the new school year. Noise fills the halls as students reconnect with friends before the bell ushers them into separate rooms. However, this isn’t how students found themselves beginning this school year.
Although online school wasn’t the original plan, students found the day enjoyable. “It has a different feel when you’re home and online than actually going into school. The good part is, you can be there even if you’re going somewhere else. The bad part is it’s harder to focus and stay on track when it’s not hands on learning,” said senior Reagan Smith.
Throughout the day, students and teachers experienced expected technical difficulties. For some students, internet and device issues made it hard to be “in class.” Others had trouble locating information. But students looked to the bright side, “with everything being new and different we all were working together to figure out what worked and what didn’t work in each class,” said freshman Ellie Smith.
Being at home presented difficulties, but junior Alyssa Robson liked working from home and not having to get dressed and ready for a school day, “It was very chill and low stress.” Junior Riley Lynch added that she liked the ability to have an hour lunch break in her own kitchen.
Interacting with people and getting into a routine gave some students a sense of relief. Junior Abby McGregor said, “for me, my favorite part was having something to do and people to listen and talk to because we haven’t gotten to do that in a while.” Many students enjoyed the flexible schedule and ability to do things on their own time frame.
The biggest drawback for students was the inability to socialize like they used to in the classroom. Teachers encouraged this among students, but it was hard to have multiple mics unmuted at once and understand each other. “I like being in the comfort of my own home, but I feel like I’m more engaged when I’m in the classroom. It’s weird not being able to talk with friends, but it makes it easier just doing it wherever we want,” said senior Nick Walsh.
As for teachers, “they are giving us time to adjust and aren’t assigning hard work right away,” said Robson. Many others added that their teacher’s energy was contagious, and they knew that they wanted to be there. “The teachers were doing a good job of making everyone feel a little bit better about the bad situation by letting us know that we aren’t alone and we are all going through it together,” said McGregor.
The reaction ranged from approval to sadness for many seniors and freshmen. “It’s kind of weird because I don’t get that high school experience with being a senior and all. But, I’m happy that they were still able to come up with something because honestly, they have all worked really hard to get us into school,” said Reagan.
Freshman Eoin Lynch described the day as “easy because we had a soft opening. I wasn’t stressed. I thought teachers would force a lot of work on the first day but they did not…I feel very pleased that my first day of high school was a success.” Ellie added, “even though it’s not the way I expected to start high school it’s kind of cool knowing that this has never happened before and that it’s going to be in future history books.”