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August 12, 2020

4/22/2020 2:19:00 PM
Social Isolation & Quarantine Survival Guide, Pt. 2
Jennifer Ertel poses for the camera over an online video meeting service.
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Jennifer Ertel poses for the camera over an online video meeting service.
Briana Barger
Graphic Designer

Not to brag or anything, but I was a fantastic student in school. I made high grades, I got along with my classmates, and all of the teachers loved me (or else I was too oblivious to notice otherwise).

Throughout my 16 years of formal education, there was only ever one aspect that gave me issues: online classes.

Okay, so that was a lie. I failed miserably at Statistics while I was in university, but I've repressed that and we're moving on.

Online classes are perfectly fine as courses. I just personally wasn't the best student when it came to them. Mostly because I had the tendency to forget the course existed after I enrolled.

This made me wonder: If I had issues keeping up with one online course during a semester, how would I have been able to handle an entire quarter of a year e-learning like all of the students are currently forced to do because of the quarantine?

Since children scare me, I spoke to teachers for their insight into this topic. That was a joke, I actually just couldn't get in contact with any students. I suspect I'm not young and hip enough anymore for the today's young people to want to speak to me.

My biggest concern was for the students who have issues learning in anything other than a classroom environment. They are fortunate, though, that as long as they put in the effort, they have nothing to worry about due to how our school system and the state is handling the situation.

"One of the things that Jennings County is doing which is really cool," said JCHS teacher Jennifer Ertel, "is all of the work that they do can only help their grade."

This means that a poor performance cannot negatively effect their grade during this time. However, they are still able to improve their grades.

According to Ertel, this is very helpful for the student population. Unlike with the usual E-Learning snow days of the past, there are far more distractions to keep students and teachers alike from being able to focus solely on work.

"Everybody seems to be multitasking all the time," said Ertel. Like right now I have my laptop, I have my desktop, got my Chromebook, I've got my phone. I'm very distracted, and I'm not an easily distracted person."

Considering as I'm writing this, I've got several web browsers open with 20+ tabs in each, music playing on my desktop, and a laptop and a smartphone - I can easily see how this would be an issue while trying to do coursework.

Okay, also I know this from past experience with homework.

The good news is our school system and our students already have had practice with E-learning for several years now - a tool for making up days missed because of inclement weather.

Those made-up snow days were great preparation for a more long-term situation when it came to learning online.

"I know for a fact that Jennings County is in an enviable position as far as being a teacher or a student," Ertel said.

Between that and the teamwork that happened with the staff prior to Spring break, Jennings was as prepared as we could have been for our students.

"The high school teachers and administration and the entire staff was amazing at coming together that Thursday and Friday and getting ready," said JCHS teacher Nina Graue. "I've not seen morale like that in a while and it was absolutely amazing. That was a big plus. I think it was good for us to leave on those terms - everybody helping everyone."

According to Graue, even though school initially only postponed in person class until after Spring break, her and the other teachers she had spoken to figured that it would be for a much longer period of time. It was.

"What effect do I think this has on society?" Ertel debated. "Not much. I don't feel like we're going to have a big bunch of dumb kids just because they lost nine weeks of school."

Having been in high school during the Great Blizzard of '78, Ertel has insight as to how missing school for an extended period of time would effect students.

"We didn't go to school for like a month," she said. "We didn't make up one drop of that, not one thing. I did fine. We had doctors come out of our class, and nurses and lawyers. And nobody was like 'wow I'm just so dumb bow.' In the grand scheme of things, I think everything will be okay."

Only one aspect of this situation concerns her when it comes to the students: the senior class of 2020.

"I am literally heartbroken for them," she said. "This was a really good class too. They had a lot of school spirit, they had a lot of cohesion, they all know each other."

She admitted that the situation is difficult to watch. "I'm really sad for the kids who worked their whole life up from kindergarten, playing baseball and softball and track, they don't get to do that. They don't get to wear their cords for graduation, prom; it's just so many things. And every day, it's just one more thing. If I could do anything, I would fix that for them."

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