by: Alana Shoureck & Natasha Entrup
As most of you already know, the 2019-2020 school year is done! We have had quite a unique school year, to say the least, learning via remote learning, which has been new territory for all of us. We talked with some of our fellow members of our Upton Lake community and their first-hand experience with remote learning.
We first interviewed our fellow classmates, Jennifer Puhalski, a senior, who is an incoming freshman in college this Fall, and Elyas Faucher, who is going to be a freshman in high school this fall. When asked about their initial thoughts, Jennifer and Elyas were not exactly happy about the idea of learning online and they were not sure how switching to remote learning would work well. Jennifer told us that she had worried about how her interaction with teachers and students would change since we’re a tight-knit school. However, both of their thoughts changed. For Jennifer, the first week was a little hard, because remote learning was so different. Telling us in the interview that “Once we got into it, it wasn’t as bad as I was probably making it out to be in my head and you’re still getting to interact with teachers”. As a senior, Jennifer has a unique perspective, as she is graduating this year from Upton Lake. She feels as though the school year is missing a big part: the final goodbye. In years past, the seniors always have their last day and underclassmen get to say goodbye and wish them luck on their next journey, but because of the pandemic, it was not the same with remote learning. “It felt incomplete and unfinished. We didn’t really get to have that and it was really sad because even on the last day, I couldn’t even say goodbye and be able to say ‘wow, this is it’”. Elyas was not very fond of remote learning expressing that he likes to learn face-to-face rather than over a computer. However, he expressed that although remote learning was not his favorite, he was appreciative of all of the hard work his teachers’ put into making remote learning as easy as possible. “The teachers are trying to help you learn and made the transition easier”. Both agreed that Upton Lake alone made the remote learning experience better. We are all a small family and very close. Because of that, we have respect for each other and have the ability to work with teachers one-on-one, who want to see us succeed.
We then interviewed parents Mr. and Mrs. Cole, who gave a different perspective on their remote learning, seeing it firsthand at their home with not only one, but three students. At first, they were a little concerned about how it would exactly work out since they are both working and this is brand new and pretty sudden. They expressed to us that it was a little harder, especially for their two younger children, Jolene (who is going to be an eighth-grader) and Noah (who is going to be a fourth-grader). Mrs. Cole told us that she had to quit her job and stay at home so she could focus on making sure her kids were understanding material and lessons. This allowed her to see what her kids struggled in and the preparations needed for the next year. She feels like there should’ve been more screen time, especially for the younger kids who may be struggling more in certain areas and need more help to retain and understand information. Mr. Cole told us that both of them believe that the closing of Upton Lake shouldn’t have happened considering we’re a small school and a family, understanding that there were orders, but that the closing and transition to remote learning was hard for some families and students. Mrs. Cole told us “I think the biggest thing was the emotional toll that’s been taken on, especially for the kids. Even for the younger ones, like Noah”. She also added that a lesson that she learned throughout this entire experience was prioritizing and focusing on what’s really important. As a parent, her main focus was her kids, leaving her job to help teach them and be with them. They concluded with words of wisdom to parents, saying that communication with your kids is very important. You never know what they’re going through and you might not see when they’re sad or depressed, especially during this time.
Our last interview comes at a very different and unique view, that is, the view from an educator. Miss Smith, who taught for 32 years, 10 of them being at ULCS, took some time and told us how remote learning was for her. Miss Smith was very excited to hear about remote learning, adding that she is very into learning new things. “ Short term it was fun, being able to learn new things that I will still use in my classroom, but there is no substitution with being in an actual classroom. It was hard not to see everybody”. She told us one of the things that she struggled with was finding optimism knowing that God is in control. She also found that being in touch with people was a little harder virtually. As a teacher, she found it hard to read the needs of everybody online. As her students, we found her methods to be very creative and asked for her inspiration on it. Her response? Social media! For her, she follows younger teachers on Instagram and shows new methods, saying “just go and try it and be fun”. She found that although this was challenging, it was enjoyable and she feels like it helped her grow as a teacher and accomplish something. She feels as though God reached out and tried to teach a lesson about prayer. “Prayer is even more powerful than being with a person. God showed me that prayer can be more powerful than presence."
Overall, the concluding thoughts were unanimous. Remote learning can be a viable option for some, but it does not suit most of us. Many of us miss being with friends and teachers physically. Unlike other schools, we are very small and we thrive off of being with each other. When we come together every Tuesday morning, we come together as one and worship the Lord. Remote learning did not stop us from that, but did make it difficult. However, we faced the challenges head on and worked on making the journey easier. Although the circumstances were not ideal, many did learn the importance of community and family. At Upton Lake, we are a tight knit group of all ages who are moving through life together and learning along the way and we cannot wait to see everyone this coming year!