Students, staff work to help freshmen at start of the year

It’s the start of a new year, and there is one recent problem that schools all across the globe face: a pandemic that started in late March that was never expected to last this long. As a result of this virus, students and teachers are forced to stay at home. Members of Grayslake North and many other schools are trying hard to make this year as functional as possible.

 Due to COVID-19 regulations, physical contact is very limited. The School Board turned to e-learning so students can keep learning. As confusing and difficult as it was, freshmen have started off the school year with many different online games, activities, and calls in order to check-in and get to know all of the incoming freshmen.

In response to this new remote learning, teachers have tried to find ways to make class as enjoyable as possible. Although they are trying to make this year as best as they can, teachers may feel limited when it comes to being able to be there for the students. The majority of the staff at GNHS feel they are more understanding in person.

“I am much much better in person. I know that I can get through to a room of people much differently in person in front of them than I can on a little screen. I’m not myself that I am in front of students in school as I am on zoom because there’s all these added things to worry about or wonder about,” said Tom New, English teacher and instructional coach.

Many people have doubts and questions about what’s going to happen and what they can do to make learning easier from home, and GNHS is committed to keeping parents and students informed. 

“Other changes around the school, I feel like we more deliberately try to communicate to students and families. That’s difficult to do because some families are on this platform. Some families don’t have this, so it makes it difficult, but I would say the school is trying to constantly get the word out about stuff. Whether it be updates or info or events, that’s been the biggest change I’ve seen, like this constant deliberate attempt at communication,” New said.

The connection between a student and teacher is important. It is what will keep the student honest and comfortable and make the learning experience more fun. Since students are online and at home, that connection is now harder to get. 

“It is the biggest challenge as teachers we have right now. It is something that is the reason we got into teaching. It is to connect with kids and make you better people. We can’t do that the same way we used to. Teachers are finding new ways, but it’s a challenge,” New said.

Freshman coming to GHNS without ever being at the school was deemed an important concern that teachers worked on. The summer before school started, Link Crew trained and learned how to use e-learning and how to make this year as easy as possible for the students.  

The Link Crew is a main source of information. They provided information on easy to access websites and applications. Link Crew is an example of teachers and students pitching in to help. Although Link Crew existed before the pandemic, the group adjusted the activities and games they usually conducted, to a safer online strategy.

“They were busy all summer getting ready for that. Now, as the year goes on, like we have a meeting with them tonight to talk about how we’ve given them a little time for everybody to get into the groove.  Go find your group and you know reach out to them and check in on them. So we’re going to be ramping up the types of things we want them to do again. So it’s kind of an on and off busy kinda feeling being in Link Crew,” New said.

Link Crew has been busy helping with orientation for incoming freshmen. The club has a few training days beforehand to practice activities in order to aid the freshmen to feel more comfortable. Being remote this year, they planned all the remote learning activities and introductions several weeks beforehand. 

“This year was a little bit different. We planned all that remote stuff for several weeks. Well even before that we probably met with the Link Crew leaders four or five times on Zoom,” New said.

They met as a group four or five times to discuss this situation and concepts that would make this year more enjoyable. Student resources have recently become very important for this new school year. Because of the pandemic, students depend on the resources given to them by teachers. Some wonder if because of this school year being online, freshmen have a larger amount of resources than upperclassmen do. 

 “I end up giving more individual types of resources to my seniors because I expect them to do things on their own more, where with you guys, I tend to walk you through things more before I say go ahead and go do it,” New said.  “I think it might be the same amount of materials, but it’s how I approach those materials differently because I want them to feel resourceful. I want them to know they can do that with you guys. I want that too, but I also want to always double-check that we’re getting the right information.”

Even as beginning high school students who never actually got to go to school, freshman and senior students alike are given the same amount of resources, although the amount of resources are given at slower and faster paces and with a certain amount of instruction.

“I think individually each of my teachers have provided me with a lot of resources like prerecorded lessons that I could go back and watch or just things that make it easier to review them myself, and I’ve also used a lot of YouTube video resources that my teachers have provided to me in that way,” said junior Aarya Balaji.

Students seem to be mostly understanding the videos and links given to them by teachers to aid them during projects and assignments. 

“I know what I”m supposed to do and how I’m supposed to do it and like when it’s due and if I ever need clarification I always go to my teachers and they’re always super helpful,” Balaji said. 

Although many students can understand the majority of what the teachers provide them, there is some confusion that prevents students from being their best and completely succeeding in their work.

Confusion of not knowing what teachers mean or where to submit assignments is a problem that many believe could have been easily avoided if at school. This confusion is a problem to many students, and the lack of communication that e-learning provides it’s hard to truly know if a student understands from behind a screen.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say the grades are going up or down, but the focus is shifted to what we focus on in class,” New said.

“I think there were a lot of resources given; however, I mean I’m also a tutor, and some of the kids, they’re just kinda confused on what to do,” Balaji said. “I’ve heard from other teachers that a lot of the freshmen just don’t know what to submit or how to do things, so maybe other resources could have been helpful resources that can teach them to navigate things.”

This year, resources given to students are vital to help students finish their assignments in a timely manner because teachers can’t be there in person. Knowing what to do and how to do it is a key factor in students reaching their goals academically.

“Mrs. Busse and I are going to try something for our next unit, a more personalized you can do it kind of do things at your own pace so you can see the whole unit. And if you decided ‘I’m going to read ahead,’ you’ll know what we have to do when and where things are kind of more guided in a sense like. I don’t want to hold anyone back, but I want to support people that might need extra help but also know where you’re at. Like if you’re ahead, so I can help you and check in on you. So, it’s allowing me to make more flexible material for students, and that’s one of the ideas off the top of my head like make personalized, flexible learning materials for students,” New said.

With the help of many teachers and students, GNHS as a school has created a new environment for learning even with the global-wide pandemic. Resources like the GNHS website that gives students access to teacher schedules and information about clubs has helped students at this time adjust to this new school year. The Academic  Resources Center (ARC) is to keep students informed and supported during e-learning. Students can go online to the GNHS website and search for ARC to schedule an appointment for English, math, physics, chemistry or physical science, U.S history, Word History, and peer tutoring. For more information, go to