Teachers, students try to maintain balance in the classroom

By CONNIE NOLEN | Guest Columnist

During Spring 2020’s at-home learning adventure, students are creating their own learning spaces and bell schedules. Planning their work, sleep, and study time, most high school students are managing well.

Working from home in my Google Classroom creates easy interaction with students. Some students, whose weekly work I post first, finish quickly. One student’s message pops up.

“Mrs. Nolen, I finished my assignment. Will you see if it’s right?”

“Yes, absolutely,” I respond, “I will look.” This student, who rarely speaks in class, has blossomed during remote learning. Gaining skills and confidence from working solo, her work is excellent.

“Wow! Your emotion in this response is palpable; it takes talent and hard work to capture emotion on paper. I’m so proud of you! Great work!”

Creating quiet classroom spaces at school is challenging, but necessary for introverted students. Extroverted students, drawing energy from collaboration, struggle to maintain quiet—even to allow classmates test completion time. Exasperation with quiet leads to an impatient buzz. Classroom rules such as “only eat in class if you plan to share with everyone,” confound teens. Why not eat if they’re hungry? Why not talk if no one’s complaining about the noise?

After a difficult day of requiring students to end collaborative work and move to individual responses, a hungry student is exasperated when I insist food waits until after class. On Monday, collaboration resumes—and this student leans out of his desk, banana in hand.

“Only if I have enough for everyone?” he questions aloud.

I nod, continuing. Initially, I think he’s storing the banana; instead, he’s distributing a huge bunch of bananas—ultimately serving each student and me—following the rules. We laugh. We eat bananas. Banana guy is fueled by the laughter—and a productive work session follows.

From home, more extroverted students tell me they struggle for motivation—but they take breaks, connect with friends—and then they finish the work.

Classes can be bananas at times, but students learn and exist in both realms—in loud laughter and interaction—and also in the silence of reflection and writing.