Updated: Sep 18, 2022
By Eliana Weinstein and Mordechai Singer
Teachers at Barrack have always taught in a traditional classroom setting, but when COVID-19 first hit in March of last year, school was shut down and forced to go fully remote. With the new 2020-2021 school year, and the school moving to a hybrid/in-person plan, Barrack teachers were given the choice of how and where they wished to teach. Some teachers chose to teach remotely, while others chose to teach their students outside in tents, or inside the building.
There are many differences between teaching in person and teaching from home. John Bistline (aka “Johnny”), Barrack’s Athletic Trainer and Science department teacher, decided to teach in person, although not all his students are at school with him. He says, “I haven't had any issues with students being engaged -- participation has been great.” Although masks and difficult circumstances regarding COVID are a part of the equation, it seems that being in person can be manageable, and of course it is easy to reach students in the classroom.
Along with different teaching modes, the teachers also have different opinions on how Barrack handled COVID-19 and schooling. Johny further shares , “I believe Barrack did a great job, given the circumstances of being a 6-12 school. While it's not perfect, Barrack is making the best of a bad situation.” With situations changing almost weekly, the fact that Barrack has been able to stay open and stay safe is almost shocking, and highlights Barrack’s talents. Johnny explains, “The current setup allows for maximum safety while still providing students with as normal of a school day as possible.”
Although teachers in school have their struggles and strengths, so do the teachers who teach virtually. Dr. Aaron Freidenreich (aka Dr. Frei), a member of the Jewish Studies department who is currently teaching only remotely, was asked how well he could keep his class focused while online. He explains, “I am very pleased with how my classes have gone so far. I have been able to teach my lessons effectively in our remote format. I have gotten accustomed to remote teaching and developed my skills in conducting my lessons virtually, using my screen and documents to their fullest to achieve my goals, and I think students are learning effectively as a result.” However, he does have his difficulties: “Although it is a little more difficult to gauge student focus over Google Hangouts than in person, it does seem to me that my students are engaged in the class even though it is all remote.”
Similarly, Mrs. Lilach Taichman, an upper school History teacher, reflects that “successful remote learning demands that [students] take greater ownership over the process of their own educational progress.” Dr Frei adds that he is “happy with how many students have been participating in class.” As to how Barrack handled the COVID pandemic, he explains, “Since I am not at the school each day, I really can't comment about its handling of the situation, I can only speak to my own handling of it. For my part, I have worked hard to make sure to continue to (a) offer a high quality education to my students that challenges them and deepens their skills in working with Tanakh texts and appreciating their value, (b) create an environment where all students feel included and able to participate fully in their learning, and (c) maintain an atmosphere where all students ’love where they learn.’ I am hopeful and confident that the school as a whole is doing the same.”
2020 has been a crazy, different, and strange school year for everyone. Although teaching situations have been different online and in person, they also have their similarities. Reaching students in different settings is challenging, however, all of the teachers at Barrack, regardless of where they are teaching, are doing their best to give their students the best education they can. Thank you Barrack teachers for working your hardest to engage your students this year, no matter where you are working!