Teachers rekindle relationships — with board games


Jared Phelps

IB Coordinator Jared Phelps takes a photo of gameplay from strategy-based board game Gloomhaven. Phelps and other teachers participate in online game sessions roughly every month.

Gloria Ing, Photographer

Since COVID-19 caused schools to close until the end of the 2019-2020 school year, many teachers had to shift their daily school methods to accommodate the pandemic. International Baccalaureate (IB) coordinator Jared Phelps along with three other teachers would play board games when school was in session and have worked around the new circumstances amidst quarantine.

We’ve been playing board games for a couple of years now and we’ve always had plans set up for spring break to have another session. But then due to the pandemic we weren’t able to meet,” English 9 Accelerated and IB Literature Higher Level (HL) 1 teacher Raymond Chhan said.

With the stay at home orders, it was clear that they needed to have another way to play board games to follow those orders. Along with Phelps and Chhan, English 10 Accelerated and Theory of Knowledge (ToK) teacher Kalie Espinoza and IB English HL1 and ToK teacher Jason Good are also regular members of these games.

“Mr. Phelps was the first to suggest trying to set up a virtual game night, and ultimately, he is the one who made it possible,” Espinoza said.

Phelps needed to transition from meeting his colleagues in person to another medium where they could all meet at the same time and play board games the way they used to. 

“I know we were really bummed about it, so I looked into ways that people play complicated games like this online.  It took me weeks to finally invest the time I needed in order to figure out how best to do it, but once I figured it out, it was fairly straight-forward.  As far as why we do it – we absolutely love this game, and we love the memories we get to create when we play,” Phelps said. 

All four teachers met for their virtual game night on Friday, April 30. During the game night they played two separate board games.

“There are two different games that we played. One of them is Pandemic which is kind of ironic and [the other is] Gloomhaven [which is basically] a guided Dungeons and Dragons,” Chhan said. 

Through video chat apps such as Zoom, Phelps found a way for all four of them to play together and follow social distancing guidelines. 

“I host a Zoom call on my laptop and do a ‘Share Screen’ so that the other players can see the app we use to track information,” Phelps said. “Other players join that Zoom call so they can see the app and so we can see each other’s faces. Then I take my phone, point it at the board and connect it to the call. Through all of this, players can see the board, the info app and the faces of the other players.” 

Since all four had to transition into their gaming night online, Phelps discovered benefits for meeting virtually instead of meeting in person.

“It effectively takes us less time to play.  We usually host game sessions at my home, but I live about 20 minutes away from the other teachers.  Playing virtually like this means that the other players don’t have to spend 40 minutes driving to and from my home to play.  I’m not ready to say this is a superior way to play, but it certainly has its benefits,” Phelps said.

Staying in touch even through social distancing is important for these teachers since under normal circumstances they would be interacting with each other daily, according to Good. 

I really value these friendships and it is important to me that we have time to interact that isn’t just work. When we are at school we can all find some time to just say hello,” Good said. “With the switch to distance learning, that has been difficult because we are all making new content for classes so any time we are in a meeting we are pressed to get as much work done as we can.  Hosting the game sessions gives us a chance to chat and not have work as the topic.” 

Although social interactions have changed during the past couple months, through apps such as Zoom, individuals are able to interact with their friends, family members, classmates and more to make social distancing more bearable overall. 

“Social interaction is really important for our wellness, so finding ways to do that safely are really important.  I’ve been invited to two virtual birthday parties […] On one hand it’s really different, but on the other hand, there’s so much about it that’s similar.  You’re still getting to see people’s smiling faces, you’re still getting to laugh together.  It’s really important that we keep having these positive social experiences,” Phelps said.