Teachers and students return to in-person learning among changed conditions

Finn Dossey

After completing the first cycle of in-person learning, teachers are glad to see their students in person, but still have to cope with integrating those learning from home.

Unlike many other schools, Branson’s in-person learning model allows every willing member of the community to be on campus four days a week. The schedule remains the same as before and classes do not meet Wednesdays. Furthermore, teachers and students on campus no longer have to make their own lunches.

Both Hilary Schmitt and Georgia Ortega agreed that having students back on campus is an improvement over Zoom. 

“My favorite part is seeing the joy of dance in my students,” said Ortega, Branson’s director of dance. 

Now that they are teaching in-person, they can experience the joy in their students more than through the screen. However, not all students have chosen to return to school. 

“It’s hard for them and I feel sorry that they can’t have this experience energetically, and the tech is always a little clunky,” said Schmitt, the history department chair, about distance-learners. She instituted a buddy system in her classes to aid the disparities. Each class, an in-person “buddy” logs onto Zoom and ensures that everyone is keeping up with the class material. 

 However, distance learning is very different in a dance class. Mostly because of the art’s spatial demands and natural camaraderie – –as well as upcoming performances.

Because of Ortega’s usage of different camera angles, class participation is not terribly hindered by Zoom.  

“The only disadvantage is when we start to make a video, then they’re going to be a little bit on their own,” she said. 

Ortega has felt very comfortable in the new learning environment and is pleasantly surprised at how well students are following the guidelines.

“The school did a great job in letting us feel like we had input into what was going to happen and also making sure that everyone is safe,” she said.