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Hauppauge Students and Teachers Adapt to Distance Learning

Written by Alex Vasilakopoulos

The current coronavirus pandemic has affected every aspect of daily life, with everyone feeling its impact in different ways. With the recent cancellation of the June Regents exams, most of the attention (both of the media and of parents) has been devoted to students’ struggles with the new at-home learning. However, students are not alone in this struggle to adapt: teachers have also been forced to adapt to an entirely new method of teaching, quickly changing their teaching methods to not only ensure that their students get an education, but more importantly, to support them from a distance. I recently had the opportunity to reach out to some of my teachers from Hauppauge and asked them about how this change has affected them—how they have been attempting to support not only their students, but also themselves. 

Anne Stebbins, who teaches IB History of the Americas I and Participation in Government, sees this as a chance to test her knowledge about online learning and improve as a teacher. “The exciting thing is that I get to experiment with digital learning platforms that I have been on the ‘student end’ of in online graduate classes, but never had the opportunity to use in my classroom,” she stated in an email. This situation has pushed teachers out of their comfort zones, yet Stebbins said regarding this, “maybe I was too comfortable in my old ways.  So I am taking this as an opportunity to learn new tricks.”

Carolyn Heck, who teaches AP Chemistry and Oceanography, is trying to adapt to the format of the newly changed AP exam. “It will not be a 195-minute exam comprised of 60 multiple choice questions and 7 free response.  Instead, it will be held online, will be 45 minutes, and be only free response. It will also be on two less units of material that the regular exam would have been,” she stated. As a result of this, she has adopted an important motto: being flexible. “This is new to all of us,” she said, recognizing that flexibility would offer students of varying circumstances a chance to continue their education through this pandemic. 

Kelly Barry, who teaches IB Theory of Knowledge I, College Psychology, and US History, has been concerned about offering her students enough flexibility. “Trying to make sure that students aren’t getting too much or too little work each day is challenging. I want to make sure it is reasonable for all.” She has been concerned about the well-being of her students, making sure to be mindful of each student’s different situation and how that might affect their ability to complete work from home.

Andrea Darbee, who teaches IB English Language and Literature I and College Freshman English, misses being in the classroom with her students. “The biggest challenge is trying to find ways to connect with students.  As teachers, we are lucky to see our students five days a week for forty minutes a day. This is no longer true.” As an English teacher, she feels confident about her students being able to practice reading and writing, what she considers “the core of a good English class.” However, her main concern regards losing the ability to have “natural conversations” with each other, as her English classes are typically discussion-based. 

Regardless of this concern, Darbee, as well as all of the other teachers that I spoke with, praised the district for its support. She stated, “Our school district hosted two conference days to help train teachers in [the] best practices in distance learning.  We are getting updates daily about ways to use technology to support learning. We have a network of support—other teachers and administrators—that are assisting us in doing the best we can do!”

Even during these turbulent times, the main role of teachers has not changed: offering their students a quality education and supporting them. Teachers have been able to do this through tools such as Google Classroom and Google Meet, always making sure that students feel encouraged to learn. Despite the challenges that teachers currently face in this pandemic, they will continue to do what they have always done for their students—that is, be present for them, both educationally and emotionally—because they are teachers. And that’s just what teachers do.