Class During COVID: Patrick Marsh classroom doubles in-person students, students preparing for 8th grade

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - The past year has been about transformation for classrooms around the state and one classroom in Sun Prairie is still changing.

With roughly a month remaining in the school year, it’s almost like the start of a normal school year for a Doug Maughan’s 7th grade classroom at Patrick Marsh Middle School as more kids return to in-person learning.

“Like we’ve told the kids all year, if it crashes and burns we’re sorry and we’ll adjust. We’ll stay late, we’ll come early, we’ll move some desks, we’ll open up rooms, we’ll get a different classroom, we’ll figure it out,” said Maughan. With staff now fully vaccinated, the number of kids learning in person each day doubled this week.

“It was great to finally see faces in person and not on zoom. To finally see that like personality with kids. It was great to see how tall they were,” explain Maughan.

Just 12 of his 7th graders will stay 100% virtual, while 60 are now back in-person four days a week. “They’re currently about 6 feet apart and we can have them 3 feet apart. Obviously, the further apart the better, but with twice as many kids coming in that’s half as much space you have to spread them out. So, teachers have had to be really creative,” told Maughan.

From a teacher’s perspective, Maughan said instructing eye-to-eye rather than through a camera really does make a difference. “You get to read their body language when you’re teaching. You can get more real-time responses instead of like getting a response in chat,” said Maughan.

He said the students who’ve already returned from virtual learning also seem to be loving their time back in the classroom. “They’ve gotten used to the masks, they’ve gotten used to social distancing, but just overall being near their friends, having a lunch to go to, having a little bit of time outside for recess,” said Maughan.

One of his students, Cora Damask, is coming back to in-person learning this week. She admits, she is a bit nervous about the switch, after more than a year of only virtual learning. “There’s like huge differences, because at home I can like focus easier, because there’s not a lot of like background noises from like hallways,” said Damask.

Although like many others, seeing her friends is a welcome sight in the fleeting weeks of school remaining. Damask said that she’s really looking forward to “social interactions with people, because going into summer there won’t be that many things going on I won’t see really anyone again.”

The most pressing challenge is getting Cora and her classmates ready for 8th grade, where they will transition to a different school building “I feel like when they came back a couple months ago we had 6th graders. You know they hadn’t really been a 7th grader yet and there’s more responsibility, more ownership you know ever year in school. We’ve got to take them really quick from 6th to 8th grade,” told Maughan.

That’s a feeling Damask echoed, saying, “it will be a big transition to a whole new school, because I just kind of got used to this school.”

While the challenge of this school year is nearly over, the lessons taught to and learned from this bunch of students, are still sinking in. “The kids have been fantastic this year. They’re more resilient than you could ever imagine,” said Maughan.

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