By Ella Neve
Graphic By Sara Valbuena
Over the course of hybrid we have centered on students: their wellbeing, mental health, education, technology needs, COVID boundaries, etc. A little over a month into the Las Lomas hybrid model, teachers are sharing their experiences with hybrid thus far.
This year’s formatting of education has drastically changed and priorities have shifted in terms of education and mental health. Ms. Maria Laws, a Las Lomas Living Earth and Chemistry teacher, has observed, “When I think about this year, it’s like when you think about concentric circles. The middle part is, ‘how is everyone?’ That’s the first thing. Then there’s the tech life, ‘what’s happening, is your Wi-Fi still like in existence?’ Then it’s the curriculum, all building out.” This really speaks to the way in which much of Las Lomas’ curriculum has had to adjust to the Las Lomas community needs. In terms of curriculum, students have felt the extreme change in their everyday education; however, the responsibility and process of making that change was left to the teachers to figure out. Ms. Wendy Reeves-Hampton, the Las Lomas Public Speaking teacher and Health and Social Development teacher, commented that in regards to curriculum, hybrid has made it so that she has to “cover less in both content and skill.” Living Earth, on the other hand, is considered to be a very “hands on” class. Laws added, “It’s experiential, as much as it is conversational or mathematical, and that’s been pretty much missing. That’s been a bummer because it’s really one of the fun parts of teaching science.”
As the teaching aspect of hybrid is constantly changing, so is the emotional aspect. Reeves-Hampton said that her mental health was “at its worst last fall.” The emotional low helped her to adopt a helpful mentality, “‘I don’t have much control over going back to hybrid mentality, it helped me go with the flow as we transitioned to hybrid. I’m not going to lie–it was hard. But, the transition to hybrid wasn’t the hardest part of all of this mess.” Laws shares a similar positive outlook on the harder parts of COVID, adding, “This is a very challenging scenario but when I think about the glass half full, I mean not very full, but something that’s a bit of a silver lining. I think about how resilient we are and how adaptable we are, like how we’ve been able to change some of the expectations we have on ourselves to perform and say, ‘you know what we all showed up today’.” As for Laws mental health goes it is not as centered on her work life, “Most of the challenges have not been in the classroom, it’s been the worry of ‘what is the world?’ I haven’t seen my mother in a year and a half, when do I see my mother again?”
Laws and Reeves-Hampton were both hesitant about going back to school, Laws considered herself “reluctant,” and Reeves-Hampton said she was “bummed” hearing about the possibility of going back. Laws, on one hand, feels that hybrid isn’t very different from before, “Most of my students are still at home. I had a chemistry class yesterday, and I have only one student in my cohort. So even though we’re in hybrid, I don’t think it is very different from what we were doing before.”
As expected, connections between students and teachers have been overall difficult to establish and maintain. Reeves-Hampton attested to this, “My connection with students has been crummy. It’s mostly because I feel myself… try so hard to connect and see how they [students] are doing, and it’s exhausting. I realize now how important it is for me to see my students in order to glean how they’re doing. This lack of connection, and not knowing how kids are doing is a drain. A literal drain because I feel so helpless.” The bright spots in this lack of student-teacher relationships are the small ways students engage and express gratitude. When asked about a message she wanted to send to students, Reeves-Hampton commented that she wanted to say: “Thank you to those students who say thank you at the end of classes. I am thankful for those who engage more.” Laws spoke similarly about student engagement and also added that the connection between students and teachers has shifted for the better, “I think there’s something beautiful to see that we’ve been relating to each other on a more human level, rather than the power structure level. It makes me think ‘how can I make sure we keep getting to do that together.’ That space feels more like we’re in this together.” Humanity and “togetherness” are what both teachers are relying on during this transitional time. We are all working to be patient with each other and address the emotional needs of both the student and teacher. As we go forward, it is important for all of us to keep our mental health in mind. Laws summarized perfectly, “Giving ourselves the same kind of ‘Hey, I’m glad you showed up. I know you had a hard time. It’s okay, tomorrow.’”