Melody Herzfeld, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School technical theatre, acting and production teacher, has had to adjust her daily routine due to the emergence of e-learning in the current pandemic. This has affected the way she typically connects with her students.
“It’s a new world of communication. I feel that we need to be connected even more now than ever through this new medium. So I really encourage group work and cameras on when in class,” Herzfeld said.
Herzfeld’s mornings differ from her physical school routine. Now she always has to be a step ahead so things get done more sufficiently.
“I prepare so much more in the morning. I have to be 3-4 steps ahead to connect and have everything at my fingertips connectivity with the internet,” Herzfeld said. “Taking attendance is so much more of a ritual now as well.”
Getting students interested and interacting is vital for Herzfeld’s participation in heavy classes. Herzfeld tries to create a fun and welcoming environment for her students so students want to participate in activities.
“I try to keep it lively and fun, I try to get them warmed up with music or short music video clips for my first hours since I have tech theatre and they are working on a music festival project,” Herzfeld said.
Having students engage in entertaining activities and projects is what Herzfeld has currently been doing to face the challenge. She also has been focusing on other activities such as her One Act, which is a short drama with only one act, and her upcoming musical.
Herzfeld’s daily planning for classes online is quite the opposite of physical school. She has to figure out a different way for preparation and what will be taught.
“[Preparing for class is] completely different, where I had everything at my fingertips before, I now have to think way ahead of what I have planned. i.e. the resources, for the lessons and the adaptability to an online medium,” Herzfeld said.
Towards the end of the school day is when Herzfeld engages with her students the most, checking in on them and being able to see their faces for one last talk.
“I like to do a check-in with my students by asking them to turn on cameras so we can all see each other,” Herzfeld said. “Either at the end of class or at the onset.”
She likes to remind her students to always have a creative mind during these times. Especially now that we rely on our electronics the most at the moment.
“I remind them daily how important it is to be creative during this time of isolation and that we need to see each other, that our face time is now the most important,” Herzfeld said. “But I said this when we were all in school as well since I would always see students so enthralled in their cell phones. Now we need the phones and video more than ever and it’s still a challenge to get them engaged.”
Trying to keep their spirits up by having good humor in the classroom is another goal for Herzfeld during the day. Humor helps the engagement of her students.
“I have always tried to use humor in everything I do to keep it light and keep the kids smiling even when things can be bad,” Herzfeld said.
At the end of all her classes, Herzfeld’s job still is not done. She stays on her computer to get all of her work finished and ready for the next day.
“If you mean when I get off the computer, it’s called never. I am constantly grading and updating,” Herzfeld said. “It’s non stop when you have a to-do list pop up.”
Herzfeld is now back in school still teaching her students online with Microsoft Teams. Having to be six feet apart now from students and teachers that have decided to return back to school.
Trying to keep engaged with her students as much as possible online, preferably, Herzfeld would rather be in physical school with her students. Knowing the best ways to teach, however with these hard times she understands that everyone’s safety comes first.