CLARK, NJ- As Clark Public Schools have been working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, each of the staff has been coping in their own way.
Schools are closed at least until April 20, but with President Donald Trump issuing instructions to continue social distancing until April 30, they likely will be closed much longer. With this adjustment, the staff at Arthur L. Johnson was asked how they were coping with remote learning and how they are doing at their own households as well.
“ASL is a 3D language,” offered Loren Hsu, an American Sign Language teacher at ALJ, “It includes so many aspects aside from just the signing. It includes body movements and facial expressions and so much more. It is extremely difficult to teach in a 2D setting. “
Hsu has had a challenging time with remote learning, she said, “I think the main reason is that I truly truly truly love what I do.” Hsu misses the classroom with her students.
To cope with this, she has been doing live Zoom classes to make it more interactive and continues to try to remain an ASL family. One upside to remote learning, her students have been watching ASL and Certified Deaf Interpreters, she hopes “people will gain an understanding and appreciation of ASL, the Deaf Community and interpreting through the signing they see.”
“Some of the challenges, missing you (the author), the students, the activity in the building and being around the energy," added Jennifer Feeley, ALJ Principal. “We love teaching because, simply, we love our students! We know this will not last forever and the health and well-being of others is priority, we will persevere. To see everyone come together for a common good is heart-warming especially in times like these,” added Feeley.
Feeley is pleased with how everyone is conforming during a time like this and is amazed at the positive affirmations she has been seeing in her everyday life.
“This has been difficult on so many levels,” said Fredy Reyes, a social studies teacher at ALJ. “It's like being a first year teacher all over again. My lessons have to be engaging, challenging (but not too challenging!) and you must be able to complete it at home.”
Reyes, who teaches US History II and AP United States History, has also had a difficult time transitioning to remote learning, but has found the positives of it. With his family, he now has four adults living, working, and attending college from home. “My wife and I already had offices. We had to put something together for David, my oldest, who teaches in Linden and Nicholas, a senior at NJIT. That part has worked out well.”
Without being able to be in human contact with anyone but his immediate family, Reyes struggles with having little to do during the weekend. “However, there is a silver lining. I’ve actually called about 10 people this week. I learned to use FaceTime with my sister and friends. I’ve sharpened my distance learning skills including Google Meet and Google Classroom. We’ve had dinner together for three straight weeks.” Even though he is practice social distancing, Reyes still manages to engage with family, friends, and students on a daily basis.
“As a school counselor, a huge part of my job, and the reason I wanted to enter this field is counseling students in person, specifically helping them with their personal and emotional concerns,” added Courtney Baines, a guidance counselor. “However, as I have become more familiar and comfortable with all of the technology out there, I've conducted remote counseling sessions from my phone.
Baines shares her struggles with counseling remotely. The pandemic is difficult for her on so many levels, but she did become more comfortable with remotely helping the students. She is able to call them when needed and email them weekly check-ins to see how they are coping. Baines thinks the school has “made huge strides since week one in terms of structure, routine and balance of school, family, perhaps work for those who are essential personnel, health (both physical and mental), staying socially connected and hopefully having time to relax and explore our personal passions and hobbies.”
“The struggle is real,” said Joy Donaldson, who teaches Language Arts and AP Research and Seminar, “Let me tell you. I wake up at about 6:30 every morning, which is an hour later than usual, so that is good, I guess. I send out Remind texts in the morning to tell students what they should do. It took a solid two weeks before I felt like I had established a rhythm, so to speak.”
Donaldson added, “ I think my biggest struggle is teaching literary analysis behind a screen. It's so much easier to actually talk to you kids face to face. Plus, I miss my students.”
Donaldson has a son, Mark, and she engages with his daily school work and keeps him on track when needed, dhe says he has been easily conforming to these ways. “As far as my son, it's difficult at times. Like, I don't know math very well, so even though he's doing mixed fractions as a third grader, I had to watch his teacher's video along with him,” said Donaldson, “So, that will be my new normal, relearning math for a half an hour a day to help my son. I have to shift from teaching high school to managing a third grader's work.”
She then talked about something she wonders about for the people around her, “ I worry about everyone's mental health. So, I pray a lot, even if it may not do anything, it gives me small moments of peace and grace. I think that's what I cling to, hope," she said. "Above all, I think we all need to show one another patience, flexibility, and compassion. It's the only way to get through this.”
Edward Bucior, the Vice Principal, truly misses everyone but is very impressed how all the students “jumped right into face this new challenge.” “Personally, I miss being in school and I miss seeing everyone," he said. "I cannot speak for everyone, but part of my personal struggle is that I am a very social person. My favorite part of my job is popping into classrooms, going to the various events, and hanging out with the teachers and students. Working remotely simply eliminates all of that.”
Bucior has been collaborating with his staff to see what apps and websites they could use to truly stay connected to the students. He tells the students, “As soon as we get back, my advice for everyone is to not take anything for granted. Get involved and go to EVERY SINGLE event, take advantage of being with your friends, and create memories.”
“This is a challenging and scary time.” said Christopher Raguseo, a Gym and Health teacher at Arthur L. Johnson, “Teaching has become a whole new profession and I have to teach myself new ways of doing things, in regard to my own children they are resilient and dealing with this the best they can, it is challenging for them using technology.”
Even though he does not have a strong suit for technology, Raguseo makes the most out of what is happening, even his children are having a difficult time conforming to remote learning. “They miss their teachers and friends. As a parent I can honestly say that this is no way for any child to learn.”
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