Who Run the World? Teachers

While in a pandemic, Des Moines teachers and students are facing battles with Online Learning. Could the Hybrid model be worth it or is it dangerous?

Carolina Mendoza


Special Education teacher Megan Geha from East High School located in Des Moines, Iowa , demonstrating her wearing the appropriate and safe gear during a global pandemic. (Megan Geha )

Living in a pandemic has been a struggle, especially for those in need. More than 500 cases of COVID-19 spread each day across Iowa. On July 17, Governor Kim Reynolds announced that all students in Iowa must return to in person learning 50 percent of the time. “The expectation is, especially with core subjects, that over 50 percent of those subjects be offered in the school building”.
“It made me frustrated and upset because she was taking the autonomy from the district and districts have been given deadlines to get plans for in person, hybrid and virtual,” Special Education teacher Megan Geha said.
Geha has been a Special Education teacher at East High School for seven years. She is the Dream to Teach advisor for East and co-advisor for Student Against the Camps. Due to Geha’s medical condition, she will be teaching at home all school year.
“I believe that school should remain in an online setting until the spread of COVID-19 is under control in our state,” Geha said.
On July 24, hundreds of teachers in Iowa gathered in the East High School parking lot for a “Drive for Lives” protest. Teachers from central Iowa came together to find a way to protest that it is not safe to return to school during a pandemic. With the concerns of their own safety, they decided it was best to do a drive by protest. There were more than six hundred teachers.
Teachers have not been credited for the work they for to their students, and now, during a pandemic it seems like Reynolds is okay with increasing the COVID-19 cases and having the teachers risk their own lives to ensure the students are in school instead of being home and safe without having the parents to worry.
“As a teacher, it is a lot more work. I truly believe students should not be forced to have their cameras on, I believe that 100 percent. However, the flip side is that I cannot read body language, I can’t see if they’re paying attention or off playing the game. I am talking to a bunch of circles with the initials which is frustrating.  That’s been hard for me, I invite kids to turn their cameras on,” Geha said.
Virtual learning goes different ways as Geha commented, teachers cannot read students= body language since cameras are not forced to be turned on during class. It is also some of the teachers first year using the Canvas and Teams app, so it is difficult for them at times. Having to manage being a parent at home and a teacher, it can be a lot of work for them. As a student, it is important to let the teachers breathe, they are learning just like the students while doing online.
“Kids are much more accessible; I can contact them, or they can contact me. I have also heard this from other teachers, but attendance has been so great. For the most part most students want to be here, and they missed it which is nice,” Geha said.
DMPS students sit for a few hours on a screen listening to the teachers speak. Most students do not ask questions, but it has been that way when they were in school. Others just feel relieved they do not need to be seen in person.
“I think it is way better for the students’ mental health. They do not feel like they need to look or act a certain way and be comfortable in school,” junior Makaya Meyer said.
Students in high school tend to feel like they need to “fit in” rather than being themselves. But now, it is easier for them to feel like they do not have to worry about how they look or what they are wearing,
Now, virtually, some students do not take it to learn, just the matter of turning in the assignments on time. It has caused stress for the students and teachers.
“Teachers kind of just tell us what we are going to do. They go over it [the class subject lesson] once and then throw assignments in our face. It could be different for everyone, but I personally learn better in person. I feel like I have not learned much,” junior Alyssa Perez said.
Online school is different for all students, several enjoy it because it is easier and some just feel stressed to turn in assignments. Term one for is nine weeks long, which means there is more work for the students. Junior and senior year is not an easy year, especially building up with AP classes and catching up with school activities.  To students it seems odd that they are being assigned with a lot of homework than when they went to school. However, everyone deals with it differently. But for some students, they would rather do online school than risk themselves or family members getting COVID-19.
“I think going back may be helpful to some kids with learning disabilities, but it is not worth the risk of having an extreme rise in COVID-19 cases. Many kids will refuse to wear their masks or not take proper precautions to keep everyone the risk of having an extreme rise in COVID-19 cases. Many kids will refuse to wear their masks or not take proper precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy. We already ask too much of our teachers, we should not add risking their wellbeing as well as their families to that list,” Meyer said.
It is true, students are already asking too much of their teachers, but putting their lives at risk is just not the correct way to return. It is terrifying to see lose a close family relative or friend from catching COVID-19.
Although students are not currently allowed in the school building, East High School and other schools still provide school lunch to the students and families. Visit www.dmschools.org for more information about school lunch sites.
However, not everyone agrees the about Online learning at East High. Some prefer to go back to the Hybrid model instead of doing Online school.
“I just really want to see my students, that is a big part of my teaching, is that connection. I am not just there to look at work and grade it, I am there to have an interaction and to get to know my students,” AP Language and Composition teacher Ginger Johnson said.
Although Johnson has a medical condition, she still wants to be able to do the Hybrid model. Even if students would be able to maintain six feet apart, she would be able to see her students. As students are taking her AP Language and Composition class, they are not currently receiving their dual credit unless students go back to the Hybrid model which is a pro for going back to school. Central students who are taking AP Lang right now are receiving their dual credit, which is not fair for East students.
“I have not had anxiety over the Hybrid, I have had anxiety over the Governor saying we have to go back 50 percent of the time. I am so afraid I won’t be able to see my parents,” Johnson said.
On September 8, District Judge Jeffery Farrell denied the approval for DMPS to do virtual school and they must go back 50 percent of the time. Johnson was okay with the original Hybrid model plan, which was going to school once a week, but now they must change the amount of days that fit into the Governors rules. To some students doing Hybrid while taking the right safety measures, is better than sitting for hours staring at a screen.
“I feel like it is easier to learn when I’m face to face with a teacher and my focus is better, I can get on my phone during Online and the teacher would never notice nor stop me,” junior Rylee Roberts said.
Students find it easier to learn in person, they get to connect and listen with barely any distractions. While at home, they have all sorts of distractions around them, so it hard to listen to the teachers on the screen for hours.
East High School is going to provide safety and take the right precautions when students return to the Hybrid model such as mandating masks, remaining six feet apart and not having every single student in the building, but they could face some challenges.
“His determination [DMPS Superintendent Mr. Ahart] is to maintain a six feet distance from students and teachers in order to keep them safe. But we may not always guarantee that distance, so that is a challenge, but we will try our best to ensure that,” Associate Principal Jill Versteeg said.
It is hard to try to go back to a normal life, but it is something people will have to get used to for quite a while. Not all students will want to wear a mask correctly or have their distance around others. Teachers and staff will make sure that students still feel safe and welcome in the school building, even if we are in a pandemic. There are several students who feel that school is their home, the love the feeling of being able to walk into the building. East will provide hand sanitizers, masks at school and have the desks separated to meet the right safety precautions.
“I want to applaud our students and our staff, by far our students are amazing and they are doing their best and engaging, they are doing the work that needs to be done and we are impressed,” Versteeg said.
The district has now announced that teachers and students are returning to learn on November 10. Students were given the option to choose whether they wanted to return to school. Over 60 percent chose the Hybrid model. There have been a few changes to the Hybrid, students will be split between Cohort A and Cohort B. Students who are in Cohort A will be going on Mon/Tues. Students who are in Cohort B will be over Thur/Fri.  But students cannot expect it to be the same, there will be several changes. Masks will be required, and they will be worn correctly. Students will still go to all their classes, however there will be no scarlet block. There will be three separate lunches, it determines which class students are in, but food will not be allowed back into the building, but they can bring their water, it is important to stay hydrated. Students ID will be needed when returning for Hybrid in November, please contact the East office for any questions about the school ID. For more information, activate your account on https://www.schoolcnxt.com/. Make sure to thank your teachers, they have done an amazing job to teach students during a pandemic.