Teachers from all over the Bay Area share their thoughts on the start of the school year.
Theresa Hull, Elementary school teacher (16 years experience)
Guadalupe Elementary School, San Jose
"I do hope that distance learning will be a positive experience for everybody. I am feeling nervous and excited to distance learn again, but I also know that if I put on my creative hat and I put on a smile, then the children will be happy no matter what and we will do our best to accomplish as many of the California state standards as we possibly can. In the spring, we called it crisis teaching. We did the very best we could and now I feel we are in a better place to embark on this journey of teaching every day from home the same way I would do if I was in a classroom."
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Joe Lovato, English teacher (30 years experience)
Mt. Pleasant High School, San Jose
"I am dying to get back in the classroom. That's my life. I understand that is not going to happen and school as I know it is not going to take place. So much of what we do is based on personal relationships and for me teaching to a blank screen is going to be a real challenge. So much of what kids come to school for takes place outside of the classroom. It's an after-school club, it's a sport, it's a trip to New York that they look forward to all year long. For some that motivates them. For others it's the relationship with other kids, with teachers or other adults at school. When we left school on March 13th, I had had seven months to meet kids and build a community. Now, I am going to teach 150 kids that I never met before and it is going to be a challenge."
Roland Stevens, Special education teacher (1st year)
Mission High School, San Francisco
"This is an important time in history where we get to define our roles a little bit more. I am really excited about virtual teaching. It probably a more engaging way to access some students. There are a lot of students where it is difficult to sit in a classroom and sit in a desk and learn the traditional way. I made my lessons a little more interactive. So I am trying to make sure I am engaging with the students. It is done different virtually. You have to be more intentional because you can't walk over and engage with that student physically."
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Kristina Hamada-Wong, Elementary school teacher (20 years experience)
"As a teacher, I would love to go the classroom this fall. However, as a parent, I would have to say no, not right now at the current state we are in with COVID cases rising. I don't know how careful families have been and that makes me worried. Being in the classroom, you are exposed to all the germs kids bring in. My first year of teaching I got sick once a month. What worries me the most about going into the classroom is the safety of the teachers and the staff."
Ariana Contreras, Kindergarten teacher (8 years experience)
SF Community School, San Francisco
"Distance learning has been a complete shift in how a plan, I teach and how I communicate with my students. Distance learning will be a challenge for our kindergarten students, who we know benefit from hands on learning with their peers. My hope this year with my kindergartners is to build community with them even at a distance, and grow in reading and writing muscles. Learning will still happen, just a little bit differently and at a different pace."
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Rachel Lopez, 1st grade teacher
"I have students that have several siblings that are doing distance learning. I don't know how that is going to work for them. I have to be flexible and allow for those kind of nuances where maybe they aren't going to be able to do the work between eleven and noon, but maybe they can do it between three and four. I want to work with my families. I obviously have my curriculum that I want to get through but it may be with small Zoom classes and videos in advance that the students can do with their parents. I would expect to do what I did last year, which is making lots of phone calls, private Zoom meetings, hand-written letters in the mail. I would drop off goodies or treats off at their house when they did good work. So I would expect to build that community and hope to build a bond in a different way."
Jonathan Fong, Chemistry teacher (21 years experience)
Lowell High School, San Francisco
"It will be new for students and new for teachers to start off the school year not having established relationships. I find it exciting but also challenging to have to teach students off the bat without having met them in person. I am excited to make sure our students have a fun time learning considering what is going on. We want to make sure our students, with the academic rigor we have at our school, that their needs are met, whether it is emotional, or social or academic. We are going to try extra hard to make sure all students are included."
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Nick, 5th grade teacher
"I am feeling pretty good about distance learning. My district is putting certain things in place, has given us some professional development on certain tools and I've got great teammates and great support at my school and district. I will miss seeing kids learn, not just from me, but from each other and working collaboratively and seeing their smile each day."
Joy Paterson, Elementary school teacher
SF Community School, San Francisco
"Even though the mood about distance learning is fairly negative, I try to look at the bright side and I think there have been some positives. Last spring, I was able to get have some really intensive one-on-one groups and really push my students' reading, which couldn't actually happen in the classroom with all the distractions that happen. I think once we have families reestablished and have all the devices they need and the WiFi and create community, then we can actually have some deeper learning than we had in the spring."
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