Mariah Gaines, Cora Myers (Sophomores)
This year was one of trials and tribulations. The side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt in schools all across the country. Anyone who spent time in a school this past year can attest to the difficulties of surviving chaotic student-filled classrooms and hallways. However, school administrators have an interesting perspective on the matter. The Eagle Times sat down with our principal, Ms. Colbert, to answer some questions about her experience operating a school post-pandemic(ish).
We started by asking Ms. Colbert to take us back to August of 2021. To describe her thoughts while starting a rather momentous school year. Ms. Colbert said she didn’t want to just upend the routines students and teachers had gotten into throughout their 2 years in the online learning environment. Instead, she aimed to take a less drastic approach. Because all students now had their own laptops, Ms. Colbert tried to simply make the online experience work in person. She believed we would be able to bring many of the elements of online learning, like breakout rooms, back into daily teaching. In return, she hoped the environment would be more scholarly, and teachers would be able to focus on small groups of students. This, however, did not workout as planned. “I know for sure that teachers do need my support in terms of helping them to transfer their skills from the virtual space.”
The administration has also faced struggles trying to keep up with CAPA and SciTech. She said, “They were already one to one, so they’ve had some time to really manage and navigate in that space and Ms. Johnson, Ms. Jones and myself were fighting hard for you guys.” She emphasized the lack of equity within the 3 main magnets, “Why are we left behind and everything is so seamless with these other schools?”
Initially Ms. Colbert wanted to have introductory meetings with each grade. This was something they did pre-pandemic that she wanted to bring back. The behavior of the student body was also a big barrier to making this a success. She admitted that she prefers the company of the kids over the adults, and doesn’t like when things are serious and tense. Teacher absences were arguably the most difficult thing that the administration had to figure out. This isn’t a rare occurrence, however at a smaller school, it really flubbed up the system.“The magic number for teachers out is eight. Once we’re there, I’m panicking.” After winter break there were weeks at a time where there weren’t even close to enough teachers and substitutes to cover the classes of absent teachers.
When asked about the school district as a whole this year and what the communication was like down the ranks, Ms. Colbert implied that you could ask any PPS administrator, and they would describe the sheer determination and perseverance pushing them through this year, rather than administrative support. The pressure put on the staff of every school in the district was immense.
Though this year wasn’t easy, good things came out of it. Ms. Colbert’s favorite thing to see was the students and teachers coming together over the Tik Tok trends. The best part of it was everyone was helping each other, laughing with each other, and teaching each other. “The way that the students come together trying to figure out how to make things work brings a smile to my face.”
Lastly, Ms. Colbert wanted to leave the senior class, and the rest of the school, with some final words. She advised the senior class to make their mark, and the rest of the student body to remember their greatness and potential.