Veteran teacher talks new normal for NKSD school year

School has been “back in session” in the North Kitsap School District for a few weeks now, and everyone from teachers and students to families and administrators are finding their rhythm in this new normal.

NKSD chose to start off the 2020-21 school year with remote learning, with the hope of returning to the classroom during winter quarter.

While students may not be in the classroom, teachers have the option of conducting classes from there via Zoom, though according to one Poulsbo Middle School teacher the classroom gets lonely.

“I do go into school sometimes, but I feel so isolated when I’m there,” Kris French said. “Every time I’ve gone in there I just kind of get teary-eyed thinking this is not what I signed up for. I do not want to be sitting here in an empty classroom.”

French teaches 7th grade English and is a veteran teacher of 36 years. Her husband is a P.E. teacher, and they both have been working from home, along with French’s daughter who is a music teacher for the Seattle School District.

“It’s kind of been three different scenarios. I have been in my classroom a few times. Our Internet connection in Poulsbo is not very good, so we are fortunate that we have a cabin out in Shelton, and we have a great internet connection out there. So we have been there primarily just because we can all be online at the same time,” French said.

Throughout the pandemic, internet access has played a critical role in people’s lives, so much so that city and state governments are looking more actively at how to fund and implement the infrastructure necessary for equitable access to high-speed internet in their communities.

For a veteran teacher like French teaching outside the classroom has presented some interesting challenges, mainly when it comes to interacting with her students, who despite being very tech-savvy, crave the social/emotional learning that comes with attending school in person.

“It’s been very interesting because the kids I think really miss being in the classroom, and I miss being in the classroom and just having that face to face contact with them and being able to interact with them and getting to know them and watching them get to know each other,” French said. “It’s really hard and is just not the same as staring at their faces on a computer screen,” French said.

On the positive side, the kids are becoming very confident with technology and are helping each other navigate some of the inevitable difficulties that come with remote learning.

“When we have been in the Zoom meetings and the kids can send messages to each other, a lot of it has to do with, ‘I can’t do this,’ and the kids start helping each other,” French said.