Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, changes were made to every aspect of life. Especially when it came to education. Students were told to go remote when the virus first broke out but schools are now gradually opening, especially in Long Island. With these openings come new protocols, set in place for the safety of students and teachers. However, social distancing, masks, and teaching isn’t always an ideal trio.
For many departments in the school, masks have made it very difficult for teachers to fully communicate with their students. This difficulty is most obvious in departments like Foreign Language, Orchestra/Band, and English, where communication is absolutely essential to the course. Señora Martinez notes, “Language teachers pay attention to the last letter of words to see if the student used the correct form of a verb or made an article or adjective plural. Those sounds come through in a fuzzy way at times with the mask.” However, these are changes Martinez is willing to get used to as she is grateful we even have the chance to be together in person during these tough times.
Wheatley’s music department now faces the challenge of keeping distance between students while playing, not being able to tune student’s instruments because of too much contact, and overall communication whilst being restricted with masks/voice. According to Mr. Orlovsky, the conductor and teacher of Wheatley’s orchestra, “being six feet apart is a challenge, particularly when the Symphonic Orchestra is concerned, where due to its size, the group had to be split.” On the bright side, however, Orlovsky also notes that “sharing sheet music with students via Google Classroom rather than printing it is a convenience since music is no longer lost, there is less physical handling of materials, and it is more environmentally friendly.” As always, it is important to see the positives that come with every hardship in life.
Our English department had a lot of open spots to fill in the beginning of this year, leading Mr. Collier to hire three teachers the week before school. The situation was extremely chaotic and Collier himself had to take a course over the summer in order to fill the AP English Language position at Wheatley. When asked about teaching under the new protocols and having to teach with masks on, Collier said, “Students, perhaps, have perceived teachers as more harsh then they are and students are seen as more absent from lessons and unresponsive. All of us had rodeo lesson plans we’ve had for millions of years.” However, Mr. Collier also acknowledged that teaching in person is still 1000 times better and everything we can do tech-wise now is way above anything that we’ve done before. It’s going to work for all students forever. Overall, the smaller classes have led to a better learning environment.
Everyone has been affected in some way during these inconsistent times, where it seems the world is about to fall off its axis every day. But it seems as though the teachers at Wheatley are more than grateful to be teaching their classes in person and to see their students face-to-face, not through a Google Meet. Not everything is ideal and adjustments have to be made, but every day students, teachers, and faculty are able to step foot in school is a day deserving of its own celebration.