Effective classroom setups/lessons in-person and virtual

By Samantha Gershuny

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives and the world we have known for so many years. Our interactions with peers, community gatherings, daily routines, and education have all been altered. This has led to Byram Hills needing a hybrid schedule. Only two or three days in school learning, social distance guidelines, and smaller classes have become the new reality for our community, and teachers are being affected by these changes too. Their teaching styles, curricula, and testing have all needed to be reconfigured. While many adjustments have been put in place because of the new hybrid schedule, there has been an abundance of effective classroom approaches, both in the classroom and online.

Educators have been working extremely hard to find a balance between teaching both the students in the classroom and online. They have devoted countless hours to ensure each individual is able to feel connected and engaged, even without the full experience of having face-to-face access to their teachers. The use of Kami, for example, has been introduced to annotate articles online. Furthermore, the use of tools like Jamboards, Nearpod, or Quizlet Live have all been helpful resources that allow students who are virtual and students who are in class to participate in lessons together. A workable approach that has been implemented into many teachers’ plans is the use of break-out rooms. This is a feature of Zoom/Google Meets, which allows for group work and discussions that don’t involve the whole class. Sophomore Chloe Bernstein asserts that “Although eLearning has resulted in less time spent in the classroom and thus limited face-to-face time with teachers, the faculty has done a remarkable job at giving us students the opportunity to attend extra help sessions.” Each morning or afternoon, students have the opportunity to attend small group tutorials. Small-group tutorials offer students the chance to attend extra help sessions and ask questions they may be pondering. These changes in our schedule were put in place as a way to enhance engagement due to the limited in-person class time. 

While educators have been working to develop appropriate techniques for virtual teaching, they have also had to alter their teaching styles for in-person classes. As stated by sophomore Aliza Hammond, “We have had opportunities to voice our opinions on ideal classroom setups through various Google surveys, as well as in-class discussions.” Each teacher has made it clear that our education is the priority, so they are providing all of the materials we need to achieve success. They are willing to hear our opinions and suggestions as to how this year can be improved under the circumstances we are experiencing. While group work is limited, teachers are finding ways to allow students to collaborate on assignments. Moreover, students in the classroom can often work together on shared documents and have discussions through this method. Junior Kate Levy claims that “My teachers have provided a variety of resources to help understand the material as if we have been reviewing in class each day. I feel every class period is very productive when I attend in-person school, for the teachers make sure to get as much done as possible while they see you in-person.” Without the teachers’ dedication and passion for their students, this new way of learning would have been an extremely difficult adjustment. The teachers understand our class time is limited; therefore, they make the time we have valuable.  

COVID-19 has led to a new lifestyle for most individuals and adjusting to these new conditions is difficult for many. Masks, social distancing, and limited numbers of people in one classroom have all altered our education this year. Learning has been affected in so many ways; however, the Byram Hills faculty has made it a smooth transition. I feel it is possible to achieve all academic goals with the correct drive and mindset, which is why it’s essential to take advantage of the varied resources provided to us.