After distance learning, teacher experiences community


Zara Siddique

Fatema Burhani converses with her 10th grade advisee Adam Syverson during the long advisory meeting period on Wednesdays.

Zara Siddique, Reporter

Wake up, log on, log off.

Many students and adults found themselves stuck in this endless cycle during the 2020-21 school year. Classes consisted of boxes muted and cameras off while the teachers taught to what felt like a wall. But as the COVID-19 virus cases lowered, school returned to in person, masks came off and Lab finally regained its sense of community.

Math teacher Fatema Burhani was new to Lab during the 2020-21 school year and more than a year later is just experiencing a community she never knew Lab had.

Ms. Burhani remembered the difficulties she faced creating relationships with her students during distance learning.

“I think there was an issue in the sense of [how] it puts up a barrier of getting to know students,” Ms. Burhani said.

She said the math department itself didn’t face any issues during distance learning and the only issues faced were the students.

“I feel like it wasn’t the content that suffered, I think it was more the relationship with students that suffered,”she said.

It wasn’t the content that suffered, I think it was more the relationship with students that suffered.

— Fatema Burhani

Ms. Burhani added that after coming back to school in person in spring of 2021, and especially with masks optional now in 2022, her connection with students feels much more personable.

“A lot of things just organically happen when you’re in person, and it’s easier without the masks because we can understand each other better,” she said.

According to an article by the New York Times many teachers agree with Ms. Burhani.

“No amount of online instruction can replace the power and potential of student-teacher relationships and the learning that happens in that context. Both teachers and students are the lesser for that,” said high school teacher Joshua Fleming from Redmond, Washington.

Mr. Fleming was not the only teacher who agreed with Ms. Burhani. Dozens more teachers from all over the United States share Ms. Burhani’s experience as well.

A 2020 RAND Corporation survey of over 1,000 teachers published in Education Week showed that only 84% of students online attended class daily, which further challenged the ability of the teacher to make connections and build relationships with their students. Many spoke on how relieved they were to return in person.

Ms. Burhani noted one of the greater aspects she has just been introduced to at U-High, its community.
She said, “[There is] definitely a greater sense of community because you just see each other all time.”