BVH teachers face disruptions in the virtual classroom


Adali Leon

Google Meets which is the school preferred platform experienced difficulties such as student bombers from both BVH campus and outside the BVH community.

Amid rising coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, school districts in San Diego County have decided to continue distance learning. The Sweetwater Union High School District was the first school district to begin school with distance learning on Aug. 3. Bonita Vista High students, parents and teachers aimed for a smooth first day and first week of school like any other year. Other than the disparity of student access to technology and WiFi, a major and unexpected issue that took place during the first few days back to school were students disrupting live class meetings. 

“I would much prefer [teaching] in-person, but given the current circumstance, distance learning is the best option, so we’ll do the best that we can. But something that happened last semester and this semester was having random people join the call and be really disruptive,” English 9 Accelerated and International Baccalaureate (IB) English Higher Level (HL) 1 and 2 teacher Raymond Chhan said. “That happened to me on Tuesday during my freshman class [in] fourth period.” 

According to BVH Principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D., within the first two days of the school year, there have been 14 different reported incidents across different teachers’ classes. Del Rosario explained that Google Meets, the platform that the district uses, incorporates “vulnerabilities,” such as having easy accessibility to join a classroom, attend live meeting sessions and share the meeting link to other students outside of the BVH community. 

“One of my colleagues expressed [that] they felt ‘violated.’ This was our sacred space for ourselves and our students, so it felt deflating because we had spent a ton of energy in trying to make things interactive,” United States History Honors teacher Candice DeVore said. “I think we could deal with the disappointment when technology isn’t on our side, but it was a lot harder to deal with the situations that arose where an un-rostered student showed up in our classroom. That really made me feel deflated and almost embarrassed. [I asked myself,] ‘How did I let this happen?’” 

In response to these unpredicted roadblocks, BVH teachers sent out emails to both students and parents with a unifying purpose to highlight the measures that the school administration had suggested. The protocols outlined in the email are as follows, “Students will need to log into class through our Google classroom. The meet link will be reset every day at the end of class and will not be visible until class starts. I will reveal the link to be visible to students when I log in. The link will only be available for the first 10 minutes of class please make sure that you are on time.” 

Other plans include using other tele-conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom as an alternative, which allow teachers to have more control and also prevent unregistered students from “invading” live class meetings. Based on teachers’ experiences, the measures stated on the email have been effective in preventing these classroom “bombings” from occurring. 

“[The protocols have been] super effective. Zero people have bombed me and this became a teachable moment. Now we know how to handle this if it happens again; you have to be agile and adjust to this,” Filipino, Photography and Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Art teacher Ed Lim said. “The whole mantra of the pandemic is that we should not allow [COVID-19] to destroy us. We will be fabulous [and] we will have a good life in spite of this pandemic.”

However, the disturbances of classes were not only caused by random or unlisted students from outside the BVH community. There were some instances where BVH students were the ones who caused major disruptions during their own live class sessions. 

“A big issue is figuring out the technology, and with that comes people taking advantage of how inexperienced some teachers are. I know in my art class my teacher didn’t know how to mute everyone and end the meeting, so it really spiraled out of control,” senior Edelina Bagaporo said. “People were allowed to act out and be obnoxious to the point where students that were there to actually learn and take their class felt too uncomfortable to stay there even though we had to for class.”

Del Rosario acknowledges these disruptions prompted by BVH students but believes that these instances are less frequent than student disruptions during the regular school year. He also assures that these students will be held accountable and will face repercussions for their actions. 

“[During] any given year, the vast majority of students will do the right things and participate in the way that we expect, but there are always students that create disruptions in class, whether it’s virtual or not. At the end of the day, the expectations are the same,” Del Rosario said. “When students can’t comply with those basic expectations, we have our normal disciplinary actions that apply, whether it’s distance learning or not talking to the student, phone call home [and] being referred to an Assistant Principal all those things are still happening.”

Furthermore, Chhan and Del Rosario expressed that they are grateful for fellow staff members and students who are remaining optimistic and unmoved in spite of these unanticipated challenges.

“Everyone is staying at home, and that can’t be taken for granted at all. I think that everyone is trying their best and overall being really cooperative, so students are being respectful given the difficulties that teachers are facing,” Chhan said. “It’s making me appreciate my students and colleagues a lot more, too. It’s really cool that we’re all coming together and trying to figure this out. I’m thankful to the students, especially for being so patient, and I’m really proud of everyone overall.”

During these difficult times, Del Rosario stressed the importance of reaching out, asking for help and recognizing that BVH has a community that anyone can depend on whenever they need any extra assistance.

“Whether you are taking IB, AP, [Advancement Via Individual Determination] AVID or you are [in] regular classes, there’s no reason why we can’t continue to learn, grow and develop in our journey. Distance learning can feel very isolating, but I’m encouraged that we have a community that I really believe understands that we’re here for each other,” Del Rosario said. “If someone is feeling down or disconnected, it’s important that we reach out to each other and understand that everyone is here for [one another] counselors, teachers [and] administrators.”

Ultimately, in spite of these ups and downs, Del Rosario urges everyone in the BVH community to remain positive, hopeful and focused on the silver lining of the current situation.

“It’s important to know that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel for some folks. There might be some students who are thriving, but there are other students who are hurting. [I want students to] know that we are going to work through [distance learning] together; there’s a whole community of people behind everyone here,” Del Rosario said. “And I’m looking forward to getting through this period and then just continuing to have a great school year.”