Counselors, administrators reflect on implementation of virtual learning in its first year


Haylee Cobb, Staff Writer

Last March, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the safety of the school environment, ending the school year early. For the 2020-21 school year, Bearden’s counselors had to find a way to incorporate virtual learning options for students without any precedent for how to write that new hybrid schedule.

Aside from scheduling issues, Bearden began the school year with concerns about how virtual students could participate in their community due to the fact that students do not get the same social interaction opportunities when learning from home. 

“[Being a virtual learner] brings more isolation and disconnectedness, and that’s the piece, as a counselor, I worry about,” said Mrs. Beverly Anderson, the head of the counseling department. 

Knox County has not made any announcements about what the next school year will look like in terms of virtual learning options. If virtual learning remains an option, Bearden counselors and administrators want more time to reflect on the past year and to work on a new system.

“What I’d really like to do is be more intentional about course requests and teacher assignments with [virtual] courses,” junior principal Mrs. Candace Greer said. “I would want to be really intentional about coaching students around who is the good virtual learner versus who might struggle in that environment.”

The new virtual environment for students presents challenges they have never had to consider for their education. The students who decided they were more comfortable learning from home had to create and keep themselves on their own schedule. Time management and self-motivation are the most important qualities a virtual learner can have. 

Families had many questions about the procedure for virtual learning. Each teacher had their own system for attendance, course work, and tests that students had to keep track of, and communication between the student and the teacher was more difficult.

“In terms of educating the community, I was thinking of one example of a student that was in-person in the fall, and now the student is virtual, and we connected with her via Teams,” Mrs. Anderson said. “‘How’s it going?’ ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so hard!’

“It would be interesting to get feedback from students who did both.”

Moving forward with virtual learning has many unanswered questions. Right now, no one can give a definitive answer to what next fall will be like because of the many changes that could happen in the coming months. 

The counselors are prepared to plan for another semester of virtual learning. Each time they schedule virtual students, Bearden’s counselors are confident that they will create a more seamless semester. 

“Like all things during the pandemic, we have not been through this before, so we don’t really know what’s ahead of us,” Mrs. Anderson said. “The benefit we had in the spring is that we did it in the fall.”