Mike Kaul tries to balance home life and online teaching

Teacher+Mike+Kaul+is+standing+beside+his+former+student+Mallory+McKay.++

Photo courtesy Mike Kaul

Teacher Mike Kaul is standing beside his former student Mallory McKay.

Harper Estenson, Podcast Reporter

Well known, and well-liked around the high school is social studies teacher Michael Kaul. Kaul’s empathy for students has not only helped many students through their high school experience, but also has made him and his classroom a safe space for many as they have found much comfort in his company. After a very successful career, Kaul decided he was going to retire after last school year, but continue to help students with their mental health, but was unable to, due to COVID-19.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit America and prevented all students from going back to school after spring break and when school came in the fall, after six months of quarantining, and with the virus was still on the rise, the high school offered hybrid learning, giving students two days in school and three days out of school doing online learning. With this schedule, teachers still had four days of in-school teaching.

Kaul, unfortunately, had to opt-out of going back to school and resorted to teaching students all online. Kaul had to make this tough decision, as his wife has significant health needs.  

“I went in meeting with her doctors and stuff they basically put it out there that I cannot put her at risk. Either we live apart or I do online,” Kaul said.

I went in meeting with her doctors and stuff they basically put it out there that I cannot put her at risk. Either we live apart or I do online”

— Mike Kaul

If Kaul were to teach at school he would have a chance of contracting the virus and if he were to bring this home to his wife, it would most likely be fatal. Doctors gave Kaul a tough option, he either had to teach from home or live separately from his wife of 37 years for the school year. Many would not even consider this and would immediately choose to be with their significant other, but Kaul’s love for teaching and care for students made this hard, but in the end, he chose to stay home with his wife.

With hybrid learning students would spend 80 minutes in one class, but what does one do for 80 minutes with no physical teacher.  For many students, this made class rather odd to sit in a class with little to no interaction and sit and do their work.   

“Class without a physical teacher was strange. Everyday we would have a substitute that would sit and monitor us as we went on our computers and did the online work. We had plenty of work to keep us occupied but it wasn’t very interactive,” junior Zach Hunter said.

During this time, many have been worried about their children learning 100 percent online, but not many have really talked about how teachers have been teaching during this. Teachers along with many others did not see this virus coming and did not have any idea what the impact would truly be. Because of this, teachers were not able to be trained to teach online and had to jump into what essentially is a different job.

“I was able to layout kind of a program of how to cover things. The hard part is, it is powerless when you’re sitting at a computer screen to engage people yeah, whether they show up or not or do things that you’re just powerless. So you spend a lot of time chasing emails and things like that that are not to be rewarding,” Kaul said. “It’s not why I got into this profession.” 

For many students, Kaul’s “hybrid” class, has been a learning experience to say the least. With a lack of communication or relationship with Kaul, students have been struggling. With that being said for most, there have still been some positives.

“Like I said it was tough because it was new, but at the same time it helped me prepare for 100 percent online learning. It also allowed us to move at our own pace and not waste any time,” Hunter said. 

“I am thankful that it was with Mr. Kaul, he set up the class in a very simple way making sure all assignments were obvious as well as the instructions which I don’t think many people could do as well as he did,” Hunter added.

Like most, Kaul feels there are many disadvantages to online learning but also agrees there are some positives.  For some, it is hard to stay motivated online, as it isn’t interactive and it can be more confusing. But, many enjoy the flexibility that the online learning schedule gives students. 

“Some don’t like the school schedule, they like doing their work at 10 at night, and not at 10 in the morning. Some of them have to care for siblings or work to support their families. Some of them have technology concerns or needs. I tried to understand and be flexible,” Kaul said.

With all the unknowns this year it has greatly affected not only what people do but how they do it. Although this year has been crazy, most have all learned a lot and most importantly how to adapt to all these changes.

“It does sometimes mean having to do more stuff nights and weekends. But online you can be flexible to do that,” Kaul added.

With the new vaccine, no one has any idea how the next half of this school year will go, but the high school will be able to roll with the punches and do what needs to be done, to learn, educate and go back to normal.