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Some teachers head back to empty classrooms

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Posted at 12:44 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-27 15:44:22-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Many kids are starting the school year with a device at home as schools across the state go back in session.

Meanwhile, some of their teachers are back in the classroom alone, running classes virtually to help keep some of the normalcy intact.

"I come to school for the kids," said Tanya Morrison, a geography teacher at West Hills High School in Grossmont Union High School District.

Last school year, she taught six classes and saw around 190 teenagers every day.

"Now, I am waiting for my students to log in," Morrison said.

Instead of walking up and down rows of desks, she teaches her twice a week virtual lessons through the computer. Her computer sits at eye-level thanks to a stack of textbooks.

Morrison's got two screens, so she can see the teens and the lesson.

"They should already be working," she said. "They get their assignment at 8 in the morning on our Schoology platform, and they just log-in, and it's kind of self-directed work, and then we move into twice a week Zoom meetings," she said.

Preparation for the lesson began days earlier.

Instead of a free form approach, Morrison makes a slide presentation to keep the students engaged.

"I’ll use an app today called Pear Deck, and what it does is it makes Google Slide presentations interactive," she said. "So each slide they have a chance on their end to write a response and it kind of forces engagement and gives them something to do while I'm talking."

But even with all the planning, there's still challenges.

"In the classrooms, I can see that kids are disengaged," she said. "With this, I'm trying to figure out are you really disengaged or do you have a lot of kids in your house, and it's just easy to get distracted."

Morrison's been teaching for 16 years.

Instead of teaching from home she chose an empty classroom and campus to make sure she's focused on the students as this year's needs are so different. Not everything happens in a Zoom session.

"Just those normal conversations that might happen in five seconds in the room is like 45 minutes of buildup and email conversations, can I call you now, are you going to answer and those little things," she said.

With more than half of the counties in California on the state’s monitoring list, most learning, for now, is at a distance.

Morrison doesn't make the rules on how or when kids will be back, but she tries to control what she can.

"It gives me that passion to keep going and just to see that I do this for the kids," she said.