The first semester for Norwich Free Academy has ended and students and teachers have different thoughts and feelings about how it went and what could have been done better.
Molly Hankard, NFA freshman math teacher, had many positive and negative experiences throughout the first semester.
“My biggest challenge this year has been the lack of interaction between students,” Hankard explains. “They are usually so chatty in the beginning and we have such fun classes, every class has their own personality, and I just feel like that’s been really missing and lacking this year.”
Although Hankard misses seeing her students talk and laugh as much as she is used to, she understands the students’ point of view in these different times.
“It has been very hard to engage with my students during semester one, but I definitely get it,” Hankard says, “I’m sympathetic, I’ve been in meetings where I don’t want to be the one to turn my camera on or I don’t want to be the one to speak up and answer. However, if a couple students turn on their camera, or if a couple students speak up, then everybody will feel more comfortable.”
Hankard has also had to change her lessons and curriculum to adapt to the virtual learning environment.
“I love interactive stuff, like stations, relay races, any type of games, or even writing on the windows in expo marker,” said Hankard. “It’s been hard trying to take those interactive activities and turn them into a virtual setting, so we have been doing a lot more interactive slides, different math-libs, google forms, and things like that, which are great and are definitely more fun than a worksheet. But, it’s definitely not what I’m used to doing in class.”
Students in the freshman house have a different view on the first semester than Hankard, but both teacher and students have many ideas in common with each other.
For example, when asked how they felt at the beginning of semester one, the students had similar responses.
“At first the semester was hard, but when you start to get to know the workload and how everything is set up, it gets easier,” Yashila Ramos, a freshman at NFA, explains.
“I think in the beginning of the semester it was a little difficult to get used to mostly just being online, and only going to school like two days a week,” Sadie Holley, a freshman at NFA, adds, “But, I think that it got better throughout the semester, and now that we are in the second semester I’m pretty used to it.”
Despite getting used to the way that school went in the first semester, Ramos still has many hopes for Semester Two and how it could be different.
“I hope that teachers will listen when a student needs help with something or has a question about something, so students don’t have to wait until the class is over and do nothing until they are able to ask their question,” Ramos explains.
Holley also has hopes for what the teachers will do in the future.
“I hope that teachers start to get used to giving us a normal amount of work again, but also are understanding if that work gets turned in a little late,” Holley explains.
Although students and teachers experienced problems in Semester One, there are still many hopes for Semester Two. Both the students and teachers had ideas on what they could do differently in the second semester.
“I want to focus on the remaining 30 minutes of class and make it useful for students, make it valuable and meaningful,” Hankard says. “We’ve been blessed with all this additional instruction time, and I want to make the most of all of that time.”
Continuing with ideas for what they could accomplish in the second semester, Holley also has thoughts.
“I want to try my best to get straight A’s in the 2nd semester,” Holley says , “and I also hope that I can have more fun because I think that the first semester was so tense and it wasn’t even fun to be in school anymore.”
Similar to Holley’s goal, Ramos describes what she wants to do differently in the future.
“I want to have all my grades looking good this semester, so I don’t fall behind on work again,” Ramos explains.
Despite the struggles that students have faced, teachers are proud of students’ hard work in Semester One, and are hopeful that they will continue to succeed in Semester Two.
Hankard says, “This year people have been going through hard times under these circumstances where everything is made harder, and watching them persevere and power through has been really rewarding. And I am very proud of all the students that have been able to do that.”