With the 2020/2021 school year coming to end, it is important to acknowledge the school year as one unlike any other. The year has been very difficult for everyone due to the pandemic, but it has also awakened positive aspects of learning as well. With schools being shut down rather abruptly last March teachers had to quickly learn how to teach online and were forced to change much of their regular teaching plans to fit online schooling. Additionally, students had to deal with the aspects of learning online and also had to deal with missing out on a vital part of their daily experience of attending school on campus.
Students agreed on a handful of positive aspects of distance learning, such as being able to sleep in later than if school started at the usual time of 7:25 a.m., having the ability to go to the restroom at any time, being able to eat breakfast or lunch during class, getting the chance to stay in bed during class hours, and the ease of just being able to do it all from home. Several of the negative aspects for students were the lack of social interaction, the long class periods, the amount of screen time, the quality of learning, the lack of motivation and inability to focus, the lack of time management skills, the fear of asking questions in the online environment, and the stress of the unknown.
Junior Miguel Benitez shares, “One positive aspect of distance learning has been staying at home because you can spend more time with the family,” while sophomore Luis Argota says, “one positive aspect of being in distance learning is that you are safer, especially when COVID was really bad.” Sophomore Alex Morales says, “Some of the better parts [of distance learning] were that you knew exactly when things were due and had reminders for those things. Google Classroom is a pretty streamlined app/site allowing for easy access to classes and work so that's a pro.” On the other hand, Morales also says, “The biggest con was being at home. Too many distractions and too little contact with others.”
Sophomore Andrew Solis shares, “Some cons were that since I was able to use my phone whenever I wanted I was on it more often instead of paying attention to class, so my grades went down, my eyes kinda went to crap because of all the screen time (before distance learning my daily screen time was 2 hours ), my WiFi and computer aren’t all that great so it was an obstacle.” Junior Alyssa Calva says, “One positive aspect of online learning is being able to stay home, because I am able to do my chores while doing my classes at the same time, which then opens up the rest of my day to complete activities that I enjoy like painting, or practicing with my dogs for upcoming shows.”
Junior Lucy Hurtado-Figueroa says, “One positive aspect of online learning would include how understanding teachers have been when it comes to late work. Most of my teachers this year have been extending due dates in order to give us more time to finish our assignments.”
Junior Jasmine Martinez shares a downside of distance learning and says, “I don't pay as much attention because over a computer it doesn't feel like I HAVE to. That makes me really sad because I have very good teachers this year, and I know I would've loved to have all of my teachers in physical school and would've been great friends with all of them. I know I would've really engaged and participated more with the materials if we were in-person learning.” Martinez goes on to say, “The teachers are really doing a good job and I feel as if they are really trying their hardest to better adjust us and help us not feel as uncomfortable over a computer screen.”
Junior Gregory Medley says, “One positive aspect of completing school online this year is that I have not had to suffer through presenting in front of others as doing it through a screen gives me much less anxiety. I am typically a very anxious person and get stage fright quite easily so presenting in front of others-especially those who know me-has always been a huge fear of mine.” Junior Angel Ortega shares a positive aspect of distance learning and says, “We don't have to worry about losing a piece of paper that is worth a decent part of our grade since everything is digital.”
Junior Kelly Bravo-Bello shares, “One positive thing is you have more time to complete assignments, and you can be home laying in your bed during class instead of a hard school chair that sometimes pulls your hair for no reason at all.”
US History teacher Ms. Pechinko shares pros to distance learning and says, “Some [students] like being home and there is less bullying and stress over going to school,” but she also recognizes cons. She shares, “Many students do not have the maturity to work independently/individually.” Teacher Paul Flores shares, “I believe the year was a success because there were multiple setbacks for students and staff alike but the response to those setbacks will lead Rialto High School to new heights.” Social Science teacher Daivd Muga says, “I was able to learn a new aspect of teaching and become better equipped with technology,” which was a shared response among several other teachers.
Spanish teacher Marbla Monterosso says, “I think it went much better than I expected. I worked extremely hard to find new and exciting ways to teach my students Spanish and also provide them with many opportunities to practice the language using new online applications.” Monterosso also shares a sentiment that several other teachers felt. She continues, “I did not get to really know each one of my students as I would have in person. That is what saddens me ... that I will see them next year and not recognize them.”
Counselor Amanda McLeod-Weiser shares, “I so missed talking with my students daily. They are my heart,” while Special Education teacher Jackie Sainz tried to combat that problem by making time for interaction among her students. She says, “I gave my students time before class started and after my lessons were over for them to mingle and chat. It was during those times that we stayed more connected and it brought us closer together.”
English teacher Erika Campos shares, “Distance learning has resulted in the necessity for both students and teachers to learn new applications. It has been a steep learning curve for all but we have come out more technologically advanced students and teachers.” English teacher Nicole Tellyer shared a response that we think a lot of teachers can agree with and said one positive thing about distance learning is “waking up just early enough to throw on a nice top for the Google Meet.”
English teacher Kristina Johnson says that one positive aspect of distance learning is “students can access all of the class resources, work, and recordings whenever and wherever they want to.” Retiring teacher Jaqueline Ephraim shares, “I applaud the students who hung in there and rolled with the punches. Some of our students struggled with distance learning, but eventually, I hope, they will find their place. We survived this year, which makes us all heroes. GO KNIGHTS!!!”
Retiring Resource Specialist teacher Carol Hoover says, “It was difficult for students. Trying to stay focused for 80 minutes/period, having to take care of siblings, working to help out the family, and doing homework. But working together, we have made it this far. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are slowly coming back to a ‘normal’ life.”
RHS Clerk II Mary Phelps shares that she “became more savvy with the internet,” while school psychologist Bibian Franks shared that she was able to grow her own vegetables and spend time with her family. PBIS counselor Mr. Carlos Mares says, “I had the opportunity to launch a support group for newcomers. It allowed me to see creative ways students have been dealing with and processing the pandemic.”
Another negative aspect of distance learning this year according to SDC Special Education teacher Keith Rubio is, “Sciatica!” This, among other things, was a real issue for members of the Rialto High School staff. In addition to purchasing back cushions and back massagers, staff had to purchase tons of equipment such as stronger WIFI modems, stands, backdrops, headsets, office chairs, personal computers, printers, screen protectors, and lots of aspirin (according to one teacher). It is important to note, however, that the Rialto Unified School District did provide a taxed stipend for such purchases.
Math teacher Michelle Hunt says, “I think this past school year went pretty well all things considered. On a positive note, I think that kids who struggled in the classroom did better online,” and continues by saying, “I want everyone to know that the staff at Rialto has gone above and beyond during this past school year! The teachers have really tried hard to make distance learning a positive experience. Looking forward to the 21-22 school year!”
Resource Specialist teacher Carlton Streeter says, “I believe that most of our students ‘stepped up their game’ tremendously in technology and were able to overcome all the challenges of learning online, and were able to be successful. They also acquired additional technology skills that they will be able to use in the future. We are Rialto Strong!”
While this school year came with obstacles and challenges, it also brought new learning opportunities and taught students and teachers new skills and life lessons. More importantly, it appears that most people in the RHS community are looking forward to a new school year on campus, where they can interact with and support each other in person.
RHS principal Dr. Caroline Sweeney did not provide a comment.