The past year in education has been unprecedented. Students from kindergarten through graduate school all found themselves sharing the same type of classroom: a virtual one. Variations in difficult circumstances across counties and countries, states and nations, challenged educators and learners in many ways. But as another school year quickly recedes to memory and graduations celebrate the conclusion of one season and the beginning of another, many individuals have had unique takeaways from their unique experiences. We caught up with two teachers and two students—all at different levels—to find out what they will hold on to as they look forward to the future. –Editors
As a university-level educator, I felt like the whole experience of teaching on Zoom stretched me in ways I was not expecting. Especially regarding what I was teaching: writing, as well as observing graduate students try to tutor. Zoom education was trying but proved doable. As the saying goes: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I am proud of myself and proud of my students for coming together to find ways to make learning possible in a very challenging environment.
I don’t know if the way forward is through online learning, as I see the importance of teaching in an in-person environment. There is a lot of learning that occurs just from the simple act of seeing an instructor visibly emote while speaking. It may be a nonverbal way of taking information, but it is important nonetheless. So when we are conducting a class on Zoom, we tend to lose out on all of that. It’s been a tough year to learn, instruct, and accomplish goals. But what I’ll always remember most about this time is the resilience shown by students and faculty alike. Together we’ve accomplished something good.
June Brady,* Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow in Special Education
My senior year has turned out differently from what I was expecting as an incoming freshman at the beginning of my high school career. As a freshman I gazed at the “prom-posals” and senior events counting down the years until I could participate. As senior class copresident, I was especially disappointed hearing about my classmates yearning for more in-person events where they could see their friends. Virtual school was fun for a while because I rolled out of bed still wearing half of my pajamas; but going back to a hybrid model makes me enjoy learning more. I am excited to have an outdoor graduation and get that experience this year too. I am looking forward to living on campus at Stevenson University and getting a sense of independence while still living a short drive from home. Hopefully in my college experience we will be able to feel that sense of normalcy and get back to the events and experiences one can enjoy in our youth. While this pandemic was a challenge, I am glad to have learned from and worked through it.
Springbrook High School, Class of 2021
As a teacher of 22 years, I found teaching in a pandemic challenging. When we were forced to switch to distance learning last March, we jumped into survival mode. We had to convert our lessons, assignments, and assessments into a digital format. Even though this experience made us change the ways we do things, it also opened up some opportunities. Because we did not have the extracurricular activities that usually go on after school, I was able to spend more personalized time tutoring and helping students. I was able to meet with students in breakout rooms and talk to them privately, which cut down their fears of asking questions in front of the entire class. Some students seemed to be less distracted and were able to get more work done because they did not have their friends talking to them.
Even though this experience made us change the ways we do things, it also opened up some opportunities.
I think that this pandemic allowed students to figure out how they learn best. Now that we can offer in-person classes again, some have still chosen to stay home for different reasons. The ones who are back on campus know that they not only learn better in a classroom setting but also enjoy the social aspects of school as well. Some of the students who have chosen to stay home have found that they are more productive without distractions. Given this option, more students might choose to switch to online learning permanently.
As a teacher, I can see the pros and cons of in-person and distance learning. I enjoy in-person learning and hope that we will be able to return to it full-time next year. And I hope we can bring back most, if not all, of the extracurricular activities to provide a well-balanced high school experience for our students.
High School Teacher, San Gabriel Academy
The end is finally in sight! As I prepare to complete dental school at Loma Linda University, I reflect on how God has led my journey. In general these programs are very difficult, requiring immense dedication and hard work. The pandemic has presented an additional challenge—attempting to learn dentistry with new protocols, distance learning, and reformed patient exposure. However, I believe that these challenges have also opened new doors and opportunities for my training to be a dentist. We have learned to prioritize what is essential. Flexibility and understanding are two characteristics that we have refined and built upon. This time of uncertainty has certainly been frustrating, but I continue to see God’s hand at work in our lives. Upon completing my Doctor of Dental Surgery, I will be moving to and working in Wisconsin. I am originally from the Midwest and look forward to being close to home! I am also blessed to be marrying a colleague who also completed dental school at LLU. We are excited to serve in Wisconsin and see where God leads us in the years to come. I am so thankful for the many blessings from my time at LLU—a wonderful, God-fearing husband, numerous lifelong friends, and a specialized education that has prepared me to serve.
Joanna Moses-Alé, D.D.S.
Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, Class of 2021
*June Brady is a pseudonym.
Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor for Adventist Review Ministries.