Checking in with Fully Remote Students and Teachers

By Sora K. ’23

For the majority of faculty and students, attending in-person school only two days out of a five day week is an immense and unexpected change brought upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic. Winsor’s appearance has changed drastically since early March. Between adding TVs in classrooms, arrows directing us down one-way hallways, and hand sanitizing stations around every corner, and strict rules around mask use and social distancing, Winsor has made significant adjustments to protect the health of its students, faculty, staff, and administration. In the midst of adjusting to the unique and busy on-campus schedules, many tend to forget about those who do not attend in-person school at all and have chosen an all-remote schedule. To get a better perspective into the lives of the fully-remote members of the Winsor community, I contacted Uche O. ’22 Asha M. ’23 and Upper School Math teacher and advisor to The Banner Verónica Plata and presented them with some questions regarding their experiences learning and teaching fully online. 

What are the advantages of being fully remote? Disadvantages?

Uche: “I think the advantage of being fully remote is that I have more time to work on my assignments because I do not have to worry about commuting to and from school. Since I do not have to commute to school, I can also wake up later than I normally would. I obviously miss not seeing my friends during the week even though I do facetime and Zoom them often. Another disadvantage is struggling to see the board in some of my classes because the big screen is somewhat far away from it.”

Asha: “I particularly enjoy the freedom that comes with being fully remote, being able to organize my own schedule is different and welcoming. It’s difficult to not see my friends in person and the class dynamic while on zoom is difficult to grasp. For example, if the class is laughing at something I can’t see.”

Ms. Plata: “The advantages are that I get to spend the whole day with my dog and that I don’t have to sit in traffic. The disadvantages are that I miss my students so much and I wish I could see them in person.”

What changes have you noticed regarding the class dynamic being fully remote? 

Uche: “I have noticed that I don’t really participate that much on days like Thursday and Friday mainly because I do feel somewhat disconnected from the class because I’m on the big screen. It is also somewhat difficult to join in on a class discussion when everybody is talking to each other in person.”

Asha: “From what I can tell, there has been less participation and the class environment isn’t necessarily awkward but everything is delayed a bit.”

Ms. Plata: “It is definitely different from previous years but I don’t think it’s necessarily only because I am fully remote. If I were on campus, the class dynamic would have changed as well because students wouldn’t be able to go to the board or walk around the room.”

Do you find it more difficult to communicate with other students/fellow teachers? In what ways?

Uche: “I do not really find it difficult to communicate with my classmates and teachers. I know that if I need anything I can reach out to any of my teachers or advisor, and my friends have been very helpful when it has come to me being fully online. For example, whenever we have discussions in pairs in class, they will usually facetime me, so I can discuss with them and be a part of the conversation.”

Asha: “It’s difficult to do group work in class, but other than that I’m pretty connected to my peers and teachers.”

Ms. Plata: “Absolutely. We used to rely so much on just popping into someone’s office and we can’t really do that anymore. Being fully remote, I rely on email and Zoom a lot!” 

What are some activities/strategies you use to uplift yourself after a long day?

Uche: “I think one thing that I have been prioritizing is getting my work done as soon as possible, so I can have time every day for myself to destress and relax. In order to get my work done as soon as possible, I have set time windows for myself. Although I do prioritize my school work, I am still trying to put myself first and make sure that I am checking in on myself and mental health. To relax, I will listen to music, binge watch a show, or call one of my friends which really helps me to relieve some of the stress from my day.” 

Asha: “Taking a nap is very rejuvenating after a long day. I’m currently in the middle of redecorating my room so that takes up a lot of my free time. It helps to keep my mind off of school and other priorities of mine.”

Ms. Plata: “Two things that I look forward to every day are the daily long walks that I take with Chico in the afternoon and Facetiming with my 2-year old niece right before she goes to sleep.”

From being unable to see friends to avoiding daily traffic, these interviewees share some of the same feelings and experiences while taking part in online learning and teaching. A common disadvantage seems to be that there is a feeling of disconnect between the in-person students and the remote students, especially regarding interactive activities as well as class discussions. With the help of email and Zoom, reaching out to students and fellow teachers does not seem like a major obstacle for our respondents. Everyone noticed a change in class dynamics and observed that there is less overall participation. On the other hand, each interviewee has made personalized strategies to help them combat any difficulties they may encounter, and lift them up after a long day on the computer.