Canterbury Covid: Change & Challenges
By Vanessa Brohman
Covid-19 has taken a toll on our lives in many different ways. The pandemic has changed how we live and communicate with each other. The school system in Ontario has changed drastically, creating barriers and frustrations for students and teachers. The main change in the new school system is the at-home online portion of students learning. Many students including myself have been struggling to adapt to the online platform. Teachers have also shared their frustrations with the lack of communication and connections. I have wondered about the impact Covid has had on the Canterbury community, especially, students who struggle with anxiety.
I decided to interview Caroline McAteer, a teacher who works in the front lines of the resource room at Canterbury. Ms. McAteer is well-known for being a trusted and kind-hearted teacher, whose day mainly consists of helping students manage their anxieties, course loads, academic and social challenges, all with the mutually-shared goal of helping students reach their full potential.
I asked McAteer what the main concerns from students are when they contact her. Ms. McAteer explained that students have trouble working independently and she recognizes that online learning is difficult for students who find it hard to work without the guidance found in a classroom. Also, many students have reached out to her because they struggle to access the work that is online. Once again, this can be more challenging for students who are still developing independent learning skills.
Ms. McAteer also pointed out that students are facing some social challenges brought on by Covid guidelines. In past years, Canterbury has been known to have a special spirit that has included dances, art showcases, and coffee houses. Without these events, Canterbury is a different place. Students and teachers feel the difference. Canterbury feels less special as a community. Furthermore, individually McAteer admitted to feeling lonely herself without the same face-to-face interaction with other teachers and students. She imagines that others feel lonely too.
Ms. McAteer does, however, acknowledge some positive aspects of the changes required because of the pandemic. For some students, the opportunity to work from home and the built-in organization of the online format has been beneficial. Teachers often find it easier to give information, assignments, and feedback on Google Classroom.
McAteer also hopes that we can learn from the changes that have been made this year, continue to use online learning, and consider the curriculum base on feedback this year to find out what is really engaging students.
My second interview was with Hayley Deluca, a grade ten student who identifies as someone with anxiety. I thought it would be interesting to interview Hayley because she has experienced Canterbury before and after Covid, and she is very open about her struggles with having learning differences.
Hayley echos Ms. McAteer’s concerns that online classes can be difficult for atypical learners. Hayley finds that the work pace is her greatest challenge this year. She finds the number and frequency assignments too fast and she struggles to keep up. Hayley wants teachers to know that students who are still learning to work independently are doing their best and are experiencing stress related to the speed of the program and the lack of access to teachers.
Socially, Hayley has also been impacted by the workload and has had to cut back on social activities. Hayley enjoys being around people and in the past hanging out with friends has made school happy and fun. She also mentioned that the fifteen-minute break, when she is physically at school, doesn’t give her any time to catch up with friends. Hayley hopes that teachers and classmates can recognize that anxious students experience the new Covid regulations with specific challenges.
Thank you to Ms. McAteer and Hayley for expressing how they feel about learning and teaching at Canterbury during Covid. I think that we are all feeling the strain of the changes we face this year. Let’s keep up the good work of supporting each other.