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Class During COVID: What the holidays look like for the Sun Prairie School District

“I think we all have a new appreciation for what life was like before COVID,” said Doug Maughan, a seventh-grade science and social studies teacher in SPSD.
Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 8:00 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2020 at 10:27 PM CST
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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - It’s the first day of fall break for students in the Sun Prairie School District. For the last three months, students have been learning virtually. NBC15′s Amy Pflugshaupt followed up with Doug Maughan, a seventh-grade science and social studies teacher at Patrick Marsh Middle School to see where student and teachers are at heading into the holiday season.

Q: How does this year look compared to a typical non-COVID year?

Maughan: “A lot of kids said they are not visiting grandma and grandpa. They are hunkering down especially with the situation in Wisconsin with all of our numbers going up. My family personally, we’ve decided to skip thanksgiving.”

Q: Has COVID seem to be an issue for the families you work with at the school?

Maughan: It seems at the start of the year, I think COVID was more of a mystery to a lot of the kids. As we’ve moved further into November, I think everyone including students know someone who has it or someone who had it. A couple of kids have shared privately ‘Hey, I have some stuff going on at home. I need a few extra days on a project.’ It’s a time where you have to understand that there are a lot of moving parts at home and you just have to support the kid the best you can.

Q: Even though students have been learning from home, teachers in the district have been teaching out of empty classrooms. What is the mood with teachers, right now?

Maughan: “The teachers I’ve talked to are looking forward to an extra-long weekend to try and get our feet back underneath us. The analogy I’ve been using is it feels like we’re on a treadmill and everyday it’s getting faster or the incline is up. I think all of us including students and families need a little pause to get caught up.”

Q: How is teaching evolved for you over the last three months?

Maughan: “We’re getting more comfortable. We’re getting better at this. If you compare what we’re doing now to six, seven, eight weeks ago it’s almost a completely different style of teaching. As were getting into November and December, we are getting better at this. And I think it will be a big sigh of relief to get a few days off. I know a lot of teachers are going to turn off their computers for a day, spend some time with family, and just decompress the best you can.”

Q: As a teacher, what are you most worried about as you round out the semester?

Maughan: “The biggest thing I’m worried about is just keeping the kids engaged. Keeping them excited about coming to zoom every day. I’m guessing from their end, from a middle school end, it gets a little old. It gets a little repetitive. They really don’t have a lot to look forward to. There’s no big dance. There’s no social. There are no basketball games. Those things that really keep middle schoolers engaged. So that’s my number one concern going into Nov, Dec, Jan.”

Q: What are you most thankful for as we move into the Thanksgiving season?

Maughan: “Slowing down a little bit. Last spring, I think that was good for a lot of families. We had a chance to do some new things and the fact that we all have this common experience now. I talk to my students a lot about the challenger explosion, September 11th, this is their generation’s common experience that they will be telling their kids and grandkids about. There’s something about a shared experience that defines a generation and I’m curious where this is going to go in five, 10, 15 years with this younger generation and this common experience with COVID and how it’s going to change the world for the better.”

Q: Have you felt supported as an educator through all of this?

Maughan: “I think the amount of support that teachers have gotten has been outstanding. It’s so nice on a Monday morning to get a great email from a parent that says, ‘Hey, FYI we had a great discussion about the topic you were learning about last week.’ I think having the parents part of the learning experience more than ever has given them a window into what we’re doing every day. I’m telling you – if you have two or three minutes send a positive email to someone that has helped out your child in the past few weeks and it means more to teachers than we let on. "

When will students return to the classroom in the Sun Prairie School District?

As of right now, there are no plans to bring middle school or high school back to the classroom in the Sun Prairie School District. Patti Lux-Weber, the communications and engagement officer for the district tells NBC15 the district is still looking forward to bringing elementary students back.

“We of course are monitoring what Public Health is saying, but our plan still is to have kindergarten-2nd graders return to school in a hybrid model beginning December 7th,” said Lux-Weber.

She also said the district is exploring ideas to bring third-fifth graders back, but right now there are no details to share.

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