Philipping the Script

Washington-Liberty teacher Kevin Phillips works to teach in a more engaging manner following the virtual year 


Photo courtesy of @askmrphillips on Instagram

Mr. Phillips’ students work on projects during class time. After the virtual/hybrid year Mr. Phillips worked to engage students in the lessons, a stark contrast from COVID-19 learning.

The physical barriers placed between teachers and students last year may have been broken down by in-person learning but, after spending an entire year on auto-pilot, it resulted in a long-term mental disconnect from school. Some, such as International Baccalaureate (IB) psychology and Advanced Placement (AP) government teacher Mr. Kevin Phillips, worked to counteract those practices this time around. 

“I would say participation is still down,” Mr. Phillips said. “It’s just like across the board with my classes and other classes, because I think we all got into bad habits last year. Especially students, but also teachers not asking questions.”

Mr. Phillips planned to use a more engaging approach to try and break those habits on both sides of the classroom. He would ask questions and the students would answer them. Although he felt the need for a more structured academic style, the lack of interaction also prevented him from being able to bond with the kids.

“It was really hard to actually make a connection with anyone, it was kind of lonely. I assume it felt the same way for students,” Mr. Phillips said.

Another reason for the unsuccessful Microsoft Teams environment was a sense of immaturity amongst high schoolers. Juniors and seniors, being the only ones to attend the school in person in 2019/2020, albeit for a short while, were more prepared and comfortable than, say, a seventh-grader-turned-freshman.

“The sophomores, they are not—they don’t feel like high schoolers yet,” Mr. Phillips said. “I’ve heard the same things about the freshmen, so hopefully things will get back to normal but seniors, I feel like they’re ready.”

Seniors, even after completing a quarter of their high school experience online, were to Mr. Phillips no less motivated to graduate than in any previous years. He saw their ability to adjust to being thrust back into this life just as quickly as they were removed as reassurance that they are prepared to leave.

“I feel like the seniors that I know this year are pretty normal,” Mr. Phllips said. “[It] seems like they are ready to get out of here.”

Despite the separation of Mr. Phillips from his students, he never forgets them. Whether they move on from Arlington or just his class, he wishes them luck and is able to learn from their time here. 

“I struggle with names because I struggle with everyone’s name,” Mr. Philips said. “But do I remember them when I see them? Yes, absolutely.”


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