With schools closed and moving to online learning, teachers are trying to cope with the changes in more ways than one.

Moving instructional time online and changing lesson plans can be stressful, but suddenly not knowing if or when you will see your students again can be emotional too. Kayla Simas is in her first year as a teacher. She works at Notre Dame Academy in Staten Island and teaches social studies to middle school students.

Notre Dame is an all-girls school that teaches children from age 2 all the way through high school.

“During this recess time, we have implemented online learning for pre-K 3 and up,” Simas said. “Grades four and up, students have access to Google Classroom, which is where all of our instruction has moved to.”

Simas’ social studies class is currently learning about the Holocaust. Luckily, her plans have not been impacted too much. She had already taught her lesson explaining what the Holocaust is and now is posting links to videos featuring Holocaust survivors telling their stories. After watching, her students respond to them with their comments and ideas. She describes it similarly to when you take an online class for college, where the professor posts something, and there is a thread of comments for discussion and an assignment linked to it.

Luckily, Simas has always incorporated technology into her classroom so her students are already familiar with Google Classroom. Notre Dame students have to check in with their homeroom teachers and complete assignments by the time teachers ask for it to be completed in order to receive credit.

“Today was the first day we are doing this band so many of my students have responded well to it and started their assignments,” Simas said.

Simas is a bit emotional about the change but says the transition has not been bad so far, but it is the first day of distance learning. She states that she would have been showing her students other videos and resources this week, but that teaching in this environment may pose a challenge.

“I like the aspect that I can show them a video and then have a conversation with them that is meaningful and history-today related,” Simas said. “I can’t do that now. For example, I will be teaching them about Pearl Harbor and FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech in days to come, where I will have to post readings and kind of hope they understand it with the best guidance I can give with a description of it via Google Classroom.”

Currently, it’s unclear if or when Catholic schools will be back in session. Notre Dame’s President Kathryn Jaenicke announced that her school will reopen on April 20, the scheduled opening date for New York City public schools. The Archdiocese, however, has not announced any details surrounding reopenings.

“This is my first year teaching, so it’s definitely eventful,” Simas said. “I pray that we get to return to school, and things can go back to normal. What we are doing as teachers is something extremely unprecedented. Online learning has not happened in the school before, until now. There was always the talk of ‘what-if.'”