Back-to-School Night: Adapting to Change

Parents+could+tune+in+to+a+live+meeting+or+watch+a+pre-made+video%2C+such+as+this+video+recorded+by+English+and+AP+Language+teacher+Mrs.+Cunningham.+

Art/Photo by Sullivan Kolakowski

Parents could tune in to a live meeting or watch a pre-made video, such as this video recorded by English and AP Language teacher Mrs. Cunningham.

Lauren Ng, Staff Writer

   Two and a half hours of screen time: Zoom links, slide presentations, and a sea of turned-off cameras. For West High students, parents, and teachers alike, this year’s Back-to-School Night was truly one like no other.

   Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual school event took place virtually on September 16th. Although participants were granted the luxury of staying in their own homes, obstacles still remained, presenting teachers with an opportunity to adapt to change. 

   Using a virtual platform created a barrier of communication for teachers, who not only had to find ways to interact with parents, but also successfully complete their presentations in a fleeting 10 minutes per class. Ms. Vorhis, director of the WHS Dance Department, expressed that “the biggest obstacle was just trying to stay motivated while I’m talking to a blank screen, with nobody interacting with me.”

   In addition, Vorhis acknowledged that “usually, [the Dance Department does] a performance on Back-to-School Night.” However, it was clear that live performances would bring about many challenges virtually: as a result of connection lag, dancers would not appear to be in sync with each other. To adapt to these unlikely changes, the Department prepared pre-recorded performance videos, containing clips of dancers in their own homes. Unfortunately, not every class was able to view these performances due to time constraints. In contrast, some teachers took slightly different approaches to overcome their virtual obstacles.

   Mr. Phelps, a US History, World Geography, and AP Human Geography teacher at WHS, felt the absence of normal parent-teacher interaction. I did miss getting to shake hands with parents and connecting briefly on a more personal level,” Phelps explained.

   Although the social aspect of Back-to-School Night may have been lacking, Mr. Phelps’s interesting PowerPoint presentations still enabled him to educate parents not only on his classes, but also on the topics students are learning. Thanks to the screen-sharing features on Zoom and Google Meet, many teachers, including Mr. Phelps, were able to adapt to virtual changes and provide parents with important class information.

   Despite several difficulties of an online Back-to-School Night, one benefit still remained: technology is a gateway for creativity! WHS English teacher Mr. Welch took advantage of this opportunity and created a funny, relatable video for parents to watch. Using clips from Disney’s popular TV show “The Mandalorian,” the meme video gave parents a true glimpse into teachers’ day-to-day technical issues, including being frozen and experiencing technological delays. For Welch, the purpose of this video was to “communicate a reality we’re all going through… We’re all human beings.” 

   Although this year’s virtual Back-to-School Night made interacting with parents a true challenge, perhaps the most important takeaway of the night is not expectations on a class syllabus, but inspiration within each other. Everyone in the world is facing an immense amount of change, but by choosing to innovate and adapt to the ever-changing circumstances, maybe the world will turn right-side-up again.