The author of this article is Brianna Rao is a high school senior and a member of Franklin High School's Varsity Swim Team.
SOMERSET, NJ - Even though the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has caused schools to close in New Jersey and beyond, education is still alive through home instruction.
Many students would love to embrace their inner Ferris Bueller and take the day off, completely ignoring their schoolwork and spending their day at home watching movies but according to many students at Franklin High School this pandemic has done the opposite.
In fact, this pandemic has caused more students to push for in-school instruction.
According to FHS senior Anna Merigala school “makes [her] feel inspired to get up and do something.”
For seniors, this is the last year that students can be surrounded by their friends and experience the magic of school trips.
Merigala explains that her “senior year has been impacted by all the traditions that we have been waiting to be a part of we’re taken from us. For example, Tuesday was senior skip day. I'm not the kind to skip school but I wanted to do it to be a part of the tradition.”
Many trips including Future Business Leaders of America’s States and Model United Nations trip to New York were cancelled due to the risk they possessed in accelerating the spread of the virus.
Frank Chmiel, principal of Franklin High School, would like to remind teachers at Franklin, “We, as educators, cannot give up. We, at Franklin, are Warriors.”
During the fourteen-day period where students are at home, custodial staff will be disinfecting the high school.
Franklin’s public schools began home instruction on March 19, 2020. As Frank Chmiel said, “This is a great way for us to broaden our skill sets. We are learning more about different online learning apps because we are being required to use them. We are learning more about other ways to provide feedback, record progress, and help our students keep growing. Despite the seriousness of the situation in the world, we could see this as an interesting and exciting opportunity.”
Teachers are using Google Classroom and Google Hangout to hold virtual classes. These methods allow students to submit work and enable them the resources to have face to face lectures with their teachers.
Another school in Franklin Township has already started home instruction.
Cedar Hill Prep, a private school is still allowing its students the education they deserve. In order to provide the highest level of education possible, Cedar Hill Prep students engage in their normal classroom activities on the browser extension ZOOM.
Through this app, the students are able to see and talk to their peers and teachers. Teachers are continuing with their lesson plans and are adapting to the online classroom.
According to Sumedha Kotasthane, a third-grade teacher at Cedar Hill Prep says “this situation put teachers in a technical mode since online learning was the only way to teach the students. Having experienced this first hand, I saw teachers offer technical help, set up laptops and other devices and share online resources to best help each other's students. Making sure online lesson plans were ready was accomplished in a matter of a few days. I am sure every teacher walked away knowing that they enhanced their technical skills when it was needed for the benefit of their students.”
A third-grade student explains that her day starts at 8:30. She says that everyone from first grade to fourth grade comes on ZOOM.
“We are on mute because we are too loud but despite this, we know that at this time it is extremely important. Mr. Seeley will tell us what day today is and if it's anyone's birthday. Then we do the pledge of allegiance.”
The third-grader says that even though she wishes she could be at school, she believes this experience still has its positives. She said, “I still get to see my friends. I can't hug them but I still feel united with them!”
The lack of physical interaction was expressed by many students and teachers. Kotasthane, says that the “biggest difference would be not being able to physically be present around my students. Having said that we have been continuing with virtual thumbs up and hand raising. It is interesting to see how quickly the students have adapted to this new learning environment. I would say the biggest disadvantage is the lack of human touch. The physical high fives, the fact that students have their classrooms that reflect the personality of their teachers are the things that they mostly miss.”
This adjustment has not been easy. Students and teachers are still trying to provide the maximum level of education they can provide online.
The third-grader informed me that, “We have to keep on changing classes. The meeting has to be cancelled by the teacher so sometimes we are late for our next class.”
Students have their typical lunch or snack breaks that mirror their normal school schedule.
Students from all over the town have seen the pros of online learning. Cedar Hill Prep Senior, Vicente Rivera, says, “Distant learning actually made it easier, allowing me to work at my own pace and not trying to condense classwork in an hour, rather than whenever we can do it during the day.”
Similar to Rivera, Megha Thomas says that home instruction has given her the time to complete the “little things, like cleaning my room and workspace, reading a good book, and taking time for myself.”
This experience has taught senior, William Allegro that “nothing in life is permanent. Everything is ever-changing, so make the best of what you can.”
This experience will showcase an important trait for Anna Merigala. She explains, “I'm looking forward to what this self-learning will reveal about me. There are people who will wait till the last minute and cram. I hope I take this opportunity to not be that person and to strive to discipline myself.”
Franklin Warriors please remember these words as stated by Frank Chmiel, “As the famous warrior, Bruce Lee, said decades before, we need to flow like water. We need to be like water and adapt commensurately with a variety of situations.”
He explains that one must “take charge of [their] learning. Just because we cannot be together in person does not mean that you should stop working. Your schedule and pacing may be different, but you have to keep doing your work because the only person who gets hurt out of not working is you.
Besides academic learning take time to “exercise, eat as healthy as possible, pray/meditate/quiet time, reading whether hard copy books or via electronic devices, and getting a good night’s sleep every night as much as possible, and, of course, enjoying yourself and the presence of whomever you are allowed to be around. This is a time to reconnect with the loved ones with whom we are blessed to live”
Education will not fold, not in Franklin Township!
Have a news tip, feedback or story idea? Email FranklinTownship@tapinto.net or call our tip line 908-279-0303 ext. 257.