Sterling College seniors finish online classes from home

With the end of finals upon us, Sterling College seniors are finishing up their last tests and assignments from home. Students have been working from home ever since nearly all universities and schools closed their doors in late March and sent home.

Senior Samantha Turner was student teaching this semester in Hutchinson and agreed to come back and help teach her online 5th grade classroom from her computer screen.

“The transition was difficult,” S. Turner said. “Staff felt unprepared and nervous for what was to come. There were these high expectations for us however not much instruction and implementation on how to proceed. Teachers were feeling very overwhelmed with moving everything online. Especially with elementary students, technology knowledge is still very limited. Yes they have iPads but we have to remember that their typing and limited capacity of working the iPads made it difficult to move instruction online. There are also so many different learning styles and needs for each individual that technology does not meet. It is not ideal or preferred for most adults to learn solely online so with young children it’s tenfold more difficult.”

S. Turner said the most difficult part had been creating the new curriculum. The first week was full of reviewing what been taught just before spring break. However, once new curriculum started to be introduced, both students and parents began to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and at a loss.

“I and my cooperating teacher would make videos explaining new material but when kids can not ask question immediately and be given feedback it’s hard to learn. With zoom meetings we were able to answer questions for those who could get online,” S. Turner said.

Just like with any class, S. Turner said some of her students were unmotivated to complete their work, do their assignments, get on zoom meetings or answer their emails. It became very difficult to encourage participation from such students, making a parent’s job harder as they try to assist their children.

“I missed seeing the kids. I missed being silly and goofy with them. Even though I only knew them those few months they really touched my heart,” S. Turner said. “I loved hearing their stories and getting to know them. We laughed together and we cried together. We built relationships and I miss that feeling. I was excited to see them again online but it’s not the same as seeing someone in person.”

“The last day of class was very difficult for me,” S. Turner said. “We had a zoom meeting and almost every kid got online. They shared their favorite memories from the year and years before. They are 5th graders so this is the last year of elementary school for them. They did not get the closure they wanted or deserved. Ms. Surface and I encouraged them for next year. Most are nervous for 6th grade like anyone would be with transition. Mostly we talked about how much we had all become a family. Even though times were hard our family had stuck it out.”

For senior Rachel Turner, she worked on finishing out her full class schedule from her home’s upstairs office.

“I’m definitely not the kind of person who likes to sit at a desk and behind a screen all day,” R. Turner said. “I missed getting out around people and having my few hours out on the field for softball but I made the best of it.”

“I got a French press and milk frother since I’ve been home,” R. Turner said, “and have been making a dark roast with frothed vanilla almond milk. It’s amazing.”

Even with a full schedule of difficult senior-level courses, R. Turner made a schedule, wrote down all her assignments and readings, and followed along with YouTube study-with-me videos to stay on track.

“It seemed like I had a lot more work than I had in the past but that was probably just from staying in the same place so much,” R. Turner said. “I finished the way I hoped so that made it worth it.”

Now as the last evening of finals comes to a close, seniors will patiently prepare for their postponed graduation scheduled for Aug 23. This would be a reason to celebrate, but many seniors feel saddened given the circumstances.

“It’s sort of bittersweet,” R. Turner said. “It’s crazy that I’m finally done my undergrad and now I’m one step closer to end school but I didn’t get to celebrate properly with any of my friends. We always had certain activities we did the last few weeks before finals and then right when we were done testing. This year I finished, closed my laptop, and then just sort of chilled- not what I would have expected if I were at school.”

“It doesn’t feel real to me yet,” S. Turner said. “I got my graduation gown and cap in the mail today and it didn’t feel like mine. I feel like I’m in a bad dream and I’m waiting to wake up from this bad joke. I still feel like one day I’ll go back to school, see my friends and live in my dorm. My heart hurts for all the friends that I didn’t say goodbye to. I didn’t know those last days would be my last. I didn’t get to appreciate them for what they were: my last steps and memories from Sterling. It feels like this dream I worked so hard for was cut short. Someone just fast forward past the best part of the movie to the credits. I miss my friends and I wish we could have to ending we all deserve.”

Samantha and Rachel Turner, Hannah Abbate, Kaitlyn “Red” Tawater, and other softball players during the 2016 fall Homecoming Parade.

Looking ahead past graduation, S. Turner has a teaching position lined up while R. Turner prepares herself for more schooling down the road.

“My dream career is to become a doctor,” R. Turner said. “For now I need to take a couple more classes, study for the MCAT, and save up a little before I can get there. I’m planning on become a medical assistant soon while continuing my studies and applying to the 2021 cycle for medical school. It’s a long road ahead but I’m excited to be a little bit closer now.”

To all the seniors of Sterling College, you did it! Now all that’s left to do is wait for August and enjoy your summer.

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