Teachers’ Responses to Hybrid Learning


Julia Rotiroti, Contributing Writer

With hybrid learning as the new normal for schools today, issues such as cheating and the effectiveness of virtual teaching have come to the forefront of discussions among faculty. I decided to interview some teachers to hear their perspectives on how they have been adjusting to this transition. 

While there were many differing opinions, all of the teachers that were interviewed shared a common feeling of being torn when having to focus on multiple groups of students. English teacher Mr. Scotch added, “[hybrid learning is] asking the teachers to divide their attention, asking the students online to be engaged when the learning environment isn’t focused on them, and it’s asking the kids in class to be distracted by the kids that are chiming in that they can’t interact with.” It is important that students and teachers are collectively  conscious of how difficult this hybrid learning can be, as Mr. Scotch emphasized, “hybrid learning is difficult for all parties involved.” 

Lesson plans have also become increasingly difficult, forcing many teachers to figure out their assignments on a weekly or daily basis because it often seems that nothing is secure. 

Reacting to the constant unpredictability of teaching during a pandemic, history teacher Mr. Conwisar said, “It’s hard to design an activity that is active and engaging for both given the different circumstances, half sitting at home looking at a computer and half live in class.” A common struggle among the teachers was finding creative ways to engage the entirety of the class. Some teachers have found breakout rooms useful, pairing virtual and in-school students together. History teacher Ms. Atanacio stressed the importance of pre-planning, gesturing to a hat with labeled papers in it that she uses as a trivia game, and mentioning that every teacher is adapting and finding new ways to engage with both in-school and at-home students. 

Another aspect of hybrid learning that is difficult for staff is creating bonds with their students. Mr. Conwisar said that “it’s hard, just learning kids’ names. I only see them in person once or twice a week. They are wearing masks when I see them, it’s just a different ball game.” Forming connections between students and teachers and building a class spirit is an important aspect of high school, as many of the teachers added. However, not everything is bleak. Ms. Barenfeld, a chemistry and biology teacher, said that a way teachers are compromising for the lack of individual attention and help is through personal meetings. “What’s cool about online [teaching] is we can have a lot more individual google meets with people, which is helpful to get to know them one-on-one while giving them personal attention for their learning, so I like that aspect of it.” 

When asked how they are administering tests, many teachers laughed. Mr. Conwisar responded with: “So it’s funny you ask! Test-taking is the single most difficult thing.” There is constant debate on if tests should be given and the fairness of the exams, something all of the teachers stated is a struggle for them to decide. “Oh my goodness! I don’t know if I’m being fair to everyone with testing, I’m trying to be, but it’s making me rethink how I test,” Ms. Barenfeld acknowledged. Many teachers have been forced to completely change their testing structures and become more creative with how tests are administered. Teachers like Ms. Barenfeld are including “a lot more heavy-duty thinking problems rather than multiple choice.” 

Mr. Scotch is taking a different approach. “Every test I give is an open notebook and notes [test].” He believes that the divide in test-taking impacts the kids physically in class greatly. “The most important thing for me is that everyone feels they have the same opportunities.” This is a situation that most teachers never predicted they would be placed in, but throughout it all, it is important that we as students maintain dignity and honesty. 

Hastings High School physical education teacher, Mr. McCann, describes this new system of groups of in-person and online students learning simultaneously as an imperfect system. “I think most people would agree with me when I say it’s not perfect.” He then mentioned a quote by Winston Churchill, which he feels accurately captures the situation: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time… ” There are always going to be flaws when it comes to adjustments in education that we have not seen before, but we must accept the flaws and work with the positive aspects. 

 “For instance, back in the springtime, I had never even heard of Zoom; I never even heard of Google Meet. Now I am much more familiar with those products and apps, and I think most teachers would feel the same way,” said Mr. McCann. Students are experiencing the same exposure to unfamiliar platforms like Zoom and Meets, and this new way of learning requires students to be compliant and open-minded while we, both students and teachers, learn together. “Teachers in general have tried to adapt the best that we can,” Mr. McCann told me. 

At the end of the day for Mr. Scotch, the best type of hybrid is hybrid cars, “and it may be the only hybrid that I know of that is really good.” While hybrid learning is a temporary solution for the pandemic, it has clearly not been as effective as in-person interactive learning. Hybrid cars, on the other hand, “don’t end up as a lesser of both then it would be individually, it ends up in a very good and positive, potentially more rewarding place. You don’t run out of energy because you have the gas engine and you get significantly better gas mileage. It takes the best of both and really works together.” Hybrid cars effectively combine an internal combustion engine and an electric motor to effectively provide better and more sustainable gas mileage. Hybrid learning is attempting to fuse two different platforms of learning into one, to create a system as efficient as a hybrid car. Collectively, as a school, it is important that we all remain optimistic and creative to create the best learning environment with the resources we have, and to make the most of the year and work as efficiently as hybrid cars!