At 7 a.m., Desiree Lozano, a kindergarten teacher at Hemmerling Elementary School, gets ready to head to her empty classroom to set up for her online teaching. This became an everyday occurrence since school started on August 12, 2020. Sitting at her desk, mask on, she prepares for a day of teaching, hoping that all of her students can make it.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Banning Unified School District decided to start this school year online instead of in person.
Teachers, parents, and students are all struggling with this change that has become a part of their lives. It’s tougher for those who lack a good internet connection or who had no internet in the first place.
“It is very difficult to teach my kindergartners online because they struggle with their computers. At times, the internet connection is a big pain too. The district provided hotspots for students and teachers but it doesn’t help when my students’ computers lag and glitch out,” says Lozano.
According to the U.S. Education Department data, 14% of children between the ages of 3-18, don’t have internet access at home, making it difficult for students with no internet at home to do their schoolwork. That’s about 9.4 million children with no internet access. However, other estimates show that it may be more, up to at least 12 million children.
At his home office, Nathan Valdivia, an AVID teacher at Banning High school, has taken notice that students, while their cameras are on, do not like to speak whenever he asks a question.
“It has been difficult teaching students online,” says Valdivia. “I like to go around and talk with them and most students don’t talk in the zoom meetings, so it is hard to see what’s going on with them. I know it is much tougher on them.”
Waking up every morning, ten minutes before class starts, Isabelle Hernandez, a freshman at Banning High School, does her schooling in the comforts of her room, whom she shares with her older sister. She takes advantage of not needing to get up early to get ready for school.
Staying in her pink unicorn onesie, she chooses to not have her camera on when class starts, setting up her foldable desk, slightly taller than her bed, she gets comfortable as she waits patiently for her 1st-period teacher to start class.
“It is nice to be able to be home and sit on my comfy bed while doing classes but it’s very hard at the same time because my teachers love to give me a lot of homework and assignments. I get very overwhelmed by it. I don’t understand why they give so much work. I mean, it’s hard enough to be taught online but to have so many assignments is too much already,” says Isabelle.
She speaks about her struggles with online learning – that her teachers give her too much homework, making it difficult for her to catch up. She sits on her bed, working on her homework from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Some subjects include more hands-on learning than just visual learning. For her biology class, they were supposed to dissect some animals but are now unable to due to this pandemic.
Online classes require more self-motivation. For some high school students, self-motivation is a hard task for them to accomplish.
“When I came back from school, I would eat, then go straight to doing my homework, it was still hard but easier at the same time,” explains Isabelle. “I would have free time and be able to relax. With online learning, I need to motivate myself to do my work. When I was attending school physically, the motivation was already given to me because I was in a classroom hurrying to finish my work so I could get home and do whatever I want. Online classes take that away because I am at home and I would rather be doing something else.”
Monica Hernandez, a stay-at-home mom, sits at the brown dining table with her daughter Isabelle, helping her with her homework. They stay up late together to ensure that Isabelle gets all her work done and turned in.
She awakes from her slumber the next day, heading to the kitchen, not without passing the room of her daughter. She checks on her daughter, who is already at her desk, on two laptops, doing her schoolwork while also being on a Zoom meeting. Her face shows sympathy but also pity as she leaves her daughter to continue with her classes.
“I can see that these online classes are taking a toll on my daughter,” says Monica. “She’s constantly asking me for help instead of her teacher. It makes me feel like her teachers aren’t doing their job. Did they decide to slack off now that classes are online? It makes me mad honestly.”
Students, teachers, and even parents have been struggling with this change. It changes the way that schools work, the way that teachers are supposed to teach, and the way students are supposed to learn. The second semester will be starting soon, it is up to the Banning Unified School District to decide whether or not school gets to stays online or if they decide to allow students and teachers to go back to the empty classrooms and make them full of life again.