Hybrid learning in schools has been a dramatic change for arts classes throughout Tallahassee, but one that has been approached with sheer determination and passion. For the past five months, teachers have been working tirelessly, ensuring that students still receive the arts education they deserve even over Zoom. All of this hard work has clearly paid off when looking through the lens of students who attend school digitally.
Finding creative ways to involve digital students in class activities is the key to keeping every student engaged. Cecilia Malley is a senior at Leon High School and her chorus class, taught by Tabitha Peck, is doing just that. “Ms. Peck has started something called ‘Togetherness Wednesdays’ where both digital and in person students spread out in the auditorium and sing together, which has been really fun.”
As student director of her chorus class, Malley also has the task of leading her fellow students and welcoming them into the chorus department. “You want to be a presence and let your peers know you are always here to support them, but this is very difficult to do over a screen. Even so, I always try to find small ways to connect with them like having my camera on during class and giving everyone handwritten letters on the first day of school, including the digital students” she states.
Other schools have also been implementing this welcoming and collaborative mentality. Roman Le is a senior at Chiles High School and a student in AP 2D Art, who has experienced both digital and in person learning. Although he missed having the opportunity to physically see the progress of everyone's artwork, Zoom has innovative features that help everyone show their projects. “Screen sharing has been every teacher's savior. When we are doing critiques on our own work, it’s been significantly easier to share, collaborate, and brainstorm ideas” he states.
Although there have been many successes within the digital arts classes, there have also been some obstacles. Katie Harrison is a senior at Chiles and attends the Advanced Costume class digitally. She has concerns about the availability of materials.
“We haven’t been using any of the sewing machines, supplies, and shop tools, which I really miss” she says. “We just got our first project where we get to create our own designs, but there is a limit to the supplies we have access to. Unfortunately, the construction projects can get expensive, especially when you can’t borrow things such as thread, needles, or buttons.”
Classroom budgets are limited and teachers, no matter how hard they try, are struggling to equip both their in person and digital students equally. Many families are experiencing financial hardships during this time, which may put digital students at a disadvantage compared to the students who attend class in person.
As a fellow digital student, I have also experienced some hurdles when it comes to my theater class. The basis of the performing arts is teamwork and connection, which is difficult to achieve over Zoom. Completing performance based projects can be a challenge unless you are comfortable meeting in person, which brings its own set of risks. However, it has made me realize how important collaboration is to success. In the future, I will never take for granted having the opportunity to perform alongside my peers rather than alone in front of a camera.
However, some theater departments are taking advantage of this opportunity in order to explore new perspectives. Abbigail Sproul, co-president of the Leon thespian troupe, still feels excited and engaged, despite having to participate digitally.
“Even though the dynamics are different because the class is split between digital and in person students, it has given us more opportunities to perform, direct, or do other aspects of theater we would not normally get to do,” she said. “Luckily, our executive board has both online and in person students so we are all working together to make things as fun as possible for everyone.”
Even though hybrid learning has been a drastic change for schools all over Tallahassee, it has been the catalyst for numerous collaborative and creative opportunities. It has caused teachers and students to find innovative solutions in order to preserve the safety of everyone. These successes within the digital arts classes ultimately reveal that any problems hybrid learning brings can be solved with sheer determination, a passion for the arts, and a willingness to try new ideas.
Anna Maguire is a senior at Lawton Chiles High School and a student extern with COCA. She’s a big theater kid and when she’s not at rehearsal, you can find her at any coffee shop, hanging with her cat Coconut, or in a courtroom with her mock trial team.