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‘They’re Taller!’ Teachers And Students Are Seeing Each Other In Person After A Long Absence

An LAUSD middle school student Zooms into a class even though she has returned to the classroom.
The LAUSD's reopening plan for middle- and high school campuses calls for "Zoom-in-a-room": students only report to a single classroom each day and continue to attend classes virtually.
(Kyle Stokes
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In-Person Classes Mean Some Students Are Seeing Teachers, Classmates For First Time

Before teacher Barbara Wexler’s eighth graders returned to campus, she was worried she wouldn’t recognize them.

“A lot of the time, you’re teaching to black boxes,” said Wexler, who teaches at Hale Charter Academy in Woodland Hills.

During online Zoom classes, many teachers say it’s common for students to leave their cameras off.

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As a result, many students and teachers who have returned to L.A. Unified School District campuses over the past month — some of whom have been working together for almost a full school year — are now actually seeing each other for the first time since the pandemic forced schools to close campuses.

It’s a little weird.

“Seeing people in person has been a shock,” said George Alex Chicha, a junior at Taft Charter High School, also in Woodland Hills. “When you meet someone over Zoom and then you get to meet them in the three-dimensional aspect — they might be taller than you expect them to be.”

Wexler, the teacher, was excited to return to in-person instruction. She says it’s harder to bond with students online.

But for months, Wexler said the only image she had of her eighth graders at Hale Charter Academy was from their pre-pandemic class photos. She was relieved to find that she actually recognized them.

“It was fun when they came in,” Wexler said, “because I knew who they were — because I was afraid I wouldn’t know who they were.”

“And,” she added, “they’re taller!”

Teachers are only meeting some of their students face-to-face: roughly 20 percent of LAUSD high schoolers — and a similar percentage of middle schoolers — chose to return to campuses last week.