Student engagement takes a turn for the better


Amelia Jarrett

A student’s homework

Amelia Jarrett, Features Editor

For a year, classrooms remained mostly empty, and the few students that trickled in filled barely half the room. Teachers split their attention and their screens as they fought to manage online and in-person classes. Whether they were tucked away in bed, sleeping through the asynchronous work in Google Classroom, or waking up at 7:00 a.m. to show up in time for the first class, student engagement on a whole declined rapidly.

Going into the 2021-2022 school year, teachers at WA were uncertain if students would be able to maintain their focus. However, as WA moves into the second quarter, teachers have a better grasp on how attentive students are, and there has been a surprising turnaround. 

“The Chromebooks were almost like a divider. I wasn’t speaking to [students] I was speaking to a computer, and the computer is speaking back to me. Like it was another hindrance to relationship building and communication,” German teacher Ashley Smith said. “We made the best of it, but I definitely think that without the middle-man of the computer, it’s much easier for us to engage with one another.”

Some part of student engagement increasing is due to the lack of a remote option since in-person teaching can be a lot more hands-on and interactive. 

“Some students who were home for a year are more engaged when they get back because they didn’t really like being at home, or couldn’t follow their classes, and it wasn’t exciting.” German teacher Timothy Welch said.

During remote learning last year, many students struggled to keep up with classes, or they would have cameras and microphones turned off, spending their school days scrolling through TikTok or Instagram rather than focusing on classes. However, with no way for students to do those activities in school, they have been able to stay more attentive. 

“I think there has been an improvement since last year, and that people are still excited to be at school, and they’re more engaged with the lessons,” chemistry teacher Leslie Garrison said.

In-person learning has definitely been a help to the way that students and teachers can interact. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic still prominent in many areas of the world, and mask mandates being reinstated throughout Massachusetts, having the additional face-to-face time at school has proven to be beneficial to all.

“I think as a classroom teacher, it’s really important that everybody be in school,” Welch said. “While it might not be the best thing for everybody, or not everybody wants this to be the way it is, I think we have to force ourselves into coming back and being back at school because it is really difficult to engage classes fully online.  It’s much easier, at least for me, and the way that I teach, to have everybody in class in person.”

Though the majority of teachers have said that they saw an upward trend on a whole, there are still exemptions.

“I have found that in some of my classes, they’re very enthusiastic, looking forward to hands-on activities, whereas others are very disengaged, and they don’t really communicate with each other; they don’t show that level of enthusiasm for group work. So I’ve definitely seen both ends of the spectrum,” biology teacher Jennifer Hoffman said.