TECA’s Adaption to Distance Learning

TECAs Adaption to Distance Learning

With the situation the world is currently in, COVID19 has forced millions of classes out of schools, and into distance learning. Amongst this group of classes is an academy held at Pacifica High School called Teaching and Educational Careers Academy (TECA). TECA isn’t your typical high school class. They’re big on hands on activities and are all about teamwork.

So how does a class so action oriented and collaborative adapt to something like distance learning? As stated by TECA, their purpose is to “prepare students for college, establish and maintain bilingual abilities, [and] strengthen the students’ teaching, speaking and leadership abilities.” Their activities portray these guidelines and skills; however, it’s these activities that have stuck out as some of the hardest obstacles to find replacements for. When asked if TECA still felt the same with pandemic going on, Cynthia Hernandez, a TECA teacher at Pacifica High School, was quick to respond with her take on the situation.

“It doesn’t really. With TECA, students have opportunities to be mentors and go volunteer at the elementary schools that are close by, but since we’re not able to do that this past year students have been missing out on that teaching component. We haven’t yet found the correct way to fill that mentorship void.”

Adding to the cons of distance learning, TECA has seen a difference in the class’s energy due to there being fewer methods of communication online. Since students are told to stay muted throughout the majority of class so the lesson can be clear, communication amongst each other is far less accessible. Multiple teachers have mentioned how they, as well as their students, tend to thrive off the energy of each other, but with lack of communication, it’s proven to be one of the biggest challenges of distance learning. One TECA teacher that feels this way is Ian McFadyen.

“I think I have the same positive vibe. Not just speaking for myself, but for all teachers, when I say we get our energy from students. That’s why we do this job. This job is hard, so to have the opportunity to work with amazing students who are so unique, fun, and interesting, it’s sort of a recharge button for us,” McFadyen explained.

Hernandez added to this by mentioning how grueling the process of logging onto a class on your own can be every day.

“Usually for any human being, if someone is excited in a classroom, they tend to pass on that energy to you. I think the mundane of just being on the computer, sitting down, and just doing this every day requires you to pull that extra energy out of you even more, and it can feel draining every day. I think it’s equally as challenging for students and teachers to find that engagement and find that energy. Especially, because I don’t think anyone was prepared to be doing this for a whole year,” Hernandez said.

Moreover, lack of communication seems to have opened up a whole new door of issues, one of them being how students are unable to be there and support each other as much in class. Although, TECA is slowly adapting and finding better ways to communicate as not having aspects you’d typically experience from people can really make everyday things feel unusual.

“The really difficult part is the connection because students have their cameras off, students are not responding the same way as they would in person. There’s no body language, no voice tone, no proximity, no jokes in the hall, no high fives. You don’t have all those things that make learning come alive. I think that’s been the hardest part of all of this,” McFadyen explained.

Although certain aspects of adapting have been difficult, a lot of other parts haven’t been as challenging, some of it even being beneficial. Most TECA students have already grown accustomed to doing work assigned online, so adapting to online assignments was something that came naturally. Furthermore, some students seem to be excelling more through distance learning and have shown drastic improvement as opposed to their performance pre-COVID19, though this hasn’t been the case for every student.

“Because we did have that familiarity with technology and using computers every day, it was not as difficult to transition into using technology full time,” Hernandez said. In addition, “It’s been nice to see that some students have been more successful with distance learning. I know it’s not the same for everyone, but I’m going to speak from the fact that some students had a harder time when we were in school to turn in assignments,” Hernandez explained.

Throughout the process of adapting, TECA has taken different measures with their classes by offering different activities that help bring out the spirit of TECA throughout the pandemic.

“We have students that have volunteered to do tutoring in the after school groups. We’re connected up to Brekke and we’ve been Zoom visiting a Brekke 5th grade class, and we’ll also be visiting a 2nd grade class. So we’re still getting the opportunities to work with kids, just very different opportunities,” McFadyen said.

As for the students, they share a lot of the same woes as the teachers do. Sarah Vazquez, a current TECA student at Pacifica High School, has found it difficult to adjust to TECA online. She struggles to see TECA the same way through the pandemic, as most of the activities that she knew TECA for are mostly absent.

“We used to have a lot of in person experiences, but that pandemic has prevented us from doing those things. Adapting has felt difficult because our class is usually more hands on, and with things being fully online it’s harder to communicate with classmates and the teacher. Most students don’t communicate in class. It’s usually just the teacher that speaks, so the energy that was once there feels mostly absent,” Vazquez said.

For now, TECA is still growing with their ideas on how to counter the challenges of the pandemic, as there is still much missing from what they could be if they were still in a normal classroom environment.

“Over time we’ve started to develop different ways of leading and collaborating. I feel that through the challenges that we’re all facing during the pandemic, we’re learning and adapting, but there’s still a lot of trial and error. It’s not the same talking to each other through a screen, as it is talking to each other in person. A lot of it is still a work in progress,” Hernandez said.

For more information on TECA be sure to visit http://www.tecaphs.com/