A Rocky Return to Normalcy

After a long awaited return to in-person school, teachers have had to adjust the ways they connect with and teach their students. Here is how:

By Remi Matza

On the night of August 31st, with their stomachs filled with butterflies, students set their alarms and packed up their backpacks for their first traditional school day in over a year and a half. This marked a fresh start — a return to normalcy and the beginning of the end of the seemingly everlasting virtual lifestyle. At 6:30 a.m. the alarms rang, and students jumped out of bed, anxious with first day jitters, but nevertheless, as soon as they stepped through the school doors, everything felt right. Students reunited with their closest friends, but also with the friends who they’d lost touch with during the pandemic. Echoes of laughter emanating through the hallway replaced the lonely silence experienced during hybrid learning. Even though every person donned a face mask, it was obvious that everyone was smiling. In reflection of September 1, 2021, it is clear to see that this virus was a barricade in Byram Hills’ sense of unity. However, with a long awaited return to routine, as well as some alterations to the attitudes of both teachers and students, the Byram Hills community has arguably been restored. 

Both remote and hybrid schooling have changed the way students approach learning and teachers approach teaching. Therefore, when the school year began, it became apparent that there would be many changes to the usual school experience aside from those necessary to satisfy COVID protocols. According to junior Aliza Hammond, “it is very difficult to return to an ordinary five day school week after adjusting all of your learning habits to the remote world.” Junior Lindsay Miller agrees that she has noticed among all students that “their outlooks on studying and productivity have changed completely.” In fact, there has been an immense increase in both cheating and procrastination since the start of the pandemic. In response to this change in student behavior, Byram Hills teachers have acted swiftly with resilience and flexibility as they navigate the best ways to get connect with their students. 

Throughout virtual learning, some universities reported a spike in cheating by more than 79%. This same loss of academic integrity has been reported in Byram Hills School District, especially in classes like foreign language, where use of online resources like Google Translate cannot be tracked. Señor Eagle, who teaches Spanish in the high school, shares that due to COVID-19, his “teaching style has become more traditional: a return to paper and pencil-type of assignments and assessments.” The goal of this method of teaching is to not only avoid cheating, but also to encourage students to study the material on their own time. Señor Eagle believes that “since becoming ‘in-person’… students have had to be better prepared and review their previous class notes with more scrutiny.”

In contrast to Señor Eagle’s approach to teaching, many teachers have utilized virtual learning as a way to boost their usage of technology. Senior Talia Deutsch says that many of her classes “require no materials other than a computer” and that “even tests have been converted to an online setting.” The current generation of students have been the first to experience this massive shift from traditional learning to reliance on technology. However, there are many amazing resources available online that can aid students in their learning. These resources include Google apps like Google Slides and Jamboard, as well as external websites such as Delta Math and Miro. For example, Ms. Pellegrino now uses Miro as a way to keep virtual notes on what she teaches in class; students can go back to this website as a resource to review the material. Ms. Pellegrino also thinks “students are now more comfortable with using technology as an aid in executive functioning.” By this she means that students can keep track of assignments and due dates better by using online methods. 

No matter which route teachers choose, traditional teaching or modern teaching, the Byram Hills community should commend the amazing faculty for their quick adaptability to the changing world. COVID-19 was a seemingly impossible obstacle to overcome, but we did it. We will continue to come to school in-person every day, and we will do so with a smile every time, even if it’s hidden by a mask.