Anniversary of pandemic highlights struggles of online learning

AnnaDailey & FrannieCihunka

This month marks a year since “online learning” has become a norm at Marian and across the globe. When the pandemic began, all of Marian spent the fourth quarter learning and teaching from the comfort of their homes. Although most of Marian is now in-person, some students are still learning from home and haven’t entered the building in more than a year.

Mr. Mark Koesters gets ready for class from his Campus Ministry office. Photo by Naomi Delkamiller

Senior Arianna Saetelle has only attended one day of in-person classes since the beginning of the pandemic. “The last time I was at school in person was in January. I went back for a day, but didn’t feel comfortable enough to stay in person,” Saetelle said. Despite the safety and cleaning protocols Marian has put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, being around so many people can still be threatening for some.           

“The best part about online learning is that I get to feel comfortable in my surroundings. The worst part is that I don’t get to see any of my friends from school,” Saetelle said. 

Still, Zoom doesn’t compare to learning in the classroom. For some students, online learning has created challenges when it comes to grasping information. Sophomore Kayleigh Watson has been at home since September after having surgery and because she lives with her high-risk grandma. “Sometimes I feel it would be easier learning a topic if I was in the building,” Watson said. She works extra hard to figure out the topics she doesn’t immediately understand in class and tries to stay positive about the situation. “I have to realize I am doing this for my grandma, not myself,” Watson said. 

Not only is the school missing some students; it’s missing some teachers. Mr. Mark Koesters has not been teaching from home, but from an enclosed office in Campus Ministry. “It’s been a year since I have been in front of students,” Koesters said. Koesters is at a higher risk to contract the virus due to his age, so he teaches in the building but away from the student body. “Distance learning says it all. I feel distant from the students, and there is a lack of the personal contact and friendly chatter that happens among teachers and students.” 

Luckily, Koesters has been able to find some positive aspects of virtual teaching.“It was difficult at first, but now I’ve gotten used to it,” Koesters said. “It actually goes smoothly regarding the logistics of teaching. I can go down the seating chart and call on everyone to answer questions. I feel there is more equal participation in the class since I am not observing body language.” Koesters says he believes that, “it’s difficult to know students when all I see is a name and a face on a seating chart.” 

Mandarin teacher Mr. Jun Shao and math teacher Mrs. Lisa Schmidt have been teaching remotely as well.

Schmidt is teaching from home per the advice of her doctor, but would rather be teaching in the classroom. “I guess it has been a year since I’ve been in the classroom with students,” Schmidt said. Because of Schmidt’s past experiences with online teaching, Marian’s transition to online learning wasn’t too difficult for her. 

Schmidt taught in a small, rural school in northeast Nebraska when she was a student teacher. The calculus class she taught was offered remotely to other schools in the area. 

“That was over 20 years ago, and we didn’t have the technology we have today, though,” Schmidt said. “While I would still prefer to be in an actual classroom, the technology available today makes virtual learning manageable and does allow for quite a bit of interaction.” 

On Feb. 22, Principal Susie Sullivan sent out her weekly “News You Can Use” for students with the announcement that, “only those students on the official Learning From Home list will be allowed to Zoom class,” beginning on March 15. Previously, any student was able to learn from home. Some students who were online learning have decided to come back to the building so they don’t have to spend the rest of the year online and can participate in sports and other in-person activities such as Surprise Day and Field Day.

Senior Jayla Kuhn had not been in the building since September before coming back at the beginning of the fourth quarter. “I was online learning because the numbers [of COVID cases] were getting higher, and my parents thought it was best for me to stay home so I wouldn’t be at such a high risk for COVID,” Kuhn said. Kuhn returned to school because of Marian’s lower numbers and so she could participate in more school traditions at the end of her senior year. Kuhn originally thought she could not attend graduation if she was not in person learning, a misunderstanding that has since been clarified to seniors.  

“I know that my grandparents want to see me graduate,” Kuhn said. “It means a lot to them, so it’s the least I could do.”

Virtual school has been a difficult process for students. Learning through a screen takes more focus and more effort to socialize with friends and family safely. Despite the physical distance between some students and teachers, the Marian community continues to learn and be together, whether literally or through a screen.

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