A Friend in Me

by Henry Blanchette, Freelance Editor
photo illustration by Kaila Hanna

Every Thursday, freshman Pearl Berzin has a 30-minute Zoom call with her physics teacher, Dr. Hema Roychowdhury. Berzin knows that the main focus of this call isn’t going to involve any of Newton’s laws or velocity. Rather, Roychodhury will take this time to stress the importance of prioritizing emotional health over her coursework and will provide flexible deadlines. 

Berzin said that Roychowdhury has taken students’ emotional well-being into account.

“She’s been very understanding of everybody’s situations and gets that sometimes you can’t submit if something comes up,” she said.

When South transitioned away from optional enrichment activities and toward mandatory learning on April 6, the administration set regulations, limiting each class to three submissions per week and 30 minutes of daily work. 

This new dynamic has affected students’ perceptions of and relationships with their teachers. Berzin said that although Roychowdhury has helped students adapt to the new situation by placing less emphasis on work, not all teachers have handled virtual learning as well.

“I feel like some teachers haven’t really been respectful, have been assigning a lot of work and [have] not really [been] checking in to see if the workload is okay,” she said. “I definitely think that they’ve been assigning things that take longer than they say they do.”

Beyond not recognizing students’ varying circumstances, some teachers haven’t been very engaging during remote learning. Junior Sara Saloum said that some of her teachers show a lack of passion online.

“One of my teachers just does not want to be a teacher, and it becomes very obvious over online learning,” she said. “They were obvious in the classroom, but more so now.”

Though online learning has tested the teachers’ engagement with the class, freshman Leah Blum said it’s actually helped her recognize the hard work that teachers put in.

“I’m definitely more sympathetic toward them because it’s hard to teach over a computer,” she said. “They’re really trying their best to make sure that all of their students are understanding the material.”

Junior Ben Nasisi said that his teachers have adhered to South’s remote learning guidelines and been lenient with deadlines.

“All of them have been really understanding,” he said. “If I tell them ‘I’m doing something this week that’s important’ or ‘Something’s come up,’ they’ll get it.”

Beyond providing flexible deadlines, online learning has fostered new connections between students and teachers. Saloum said that virtual learning has given her more of an insight into how invested her teachers are in their students. 

“You find out about how much teachers actually care about you as a person,” she said. “Ms. Petrizzi, my sports nutrition teacher, always sends out these super sweet messages.”

Blum said that her teachers have made an effort to regulate the amount of work they assign.

“My math teacher, Mr. Mosbrooker, is really understanding about the amount of work that he gives,” she said. “Through his Schoology updates, I can tell that he cares a lot about our health and well-being, and it really makes his students feel better and have hope.” 

Nasisi also said that he has a specific teacher who’s been particularly understanding.

“Ms. Linde, the jazz director, let us have creative freedom when choosing our assignments,” he said. “She gave us recommendations and a deadline, but I was able to do anything I wanted with music.” 

For some students, their perception of all teachers overall has improved throughout quarantine. Blum said that remote learning has given her a greater appreciation for the work that teachers put in overall.

“Teachers really do care about us, and they want the best for us,” she said. “Quarantine has just made me realize that sometimes we take for granted how amazing the teachers are.”