Should We Breakup With Breakout Rooms?

The set-up. History teacher, Mr. Horner shows off his familiar oversized globe as well as his new Zoom monitor balanced on a chair. He, along with a majority of Santa Rosa High School teachers, was able to return to his classroom— and his beloved maps— to conduct online class sessions. “My first Zoom day in the classroom, I was in shock because it was silent. There’s no class here and I feel like I’m talking to the wall” Horner said adding, “but now I’m more comfortable and I do feel like I’m talking to the class.”
Photo By: Ashley Bell

Article By: Molly Murphey

Before the pandemic, Zoom was a small startup competing with big names in video conferencing such as Skype and Facetime. Now, doctor’s offices are using it to conduct appointments, friends are hosting virtual birthday parties and here at Santa Rosa High school, Zoom has become an indispensable tool for providing distance learning.

With frequent updates, we still have a lot to get used to, but for now let’s take a moment to celebrate our Zoom adaptations, anecdotes and even some fails.

Zoom has brought the classroom into our homes and for many students, that means spending a couple of extra hours in bed while joining their first and second periods, but some might be getting too comfortable. Junior Emma Meiners says that one of the funniest parts of school over zoom is spotting classmates who have their cameras on— but are asleep.

Asking a question on Zoom is challenging. The tiny blue raised hands are hardly noticeable and when your video isn’t on the teacher’s monitor, you could be waiting for the whole class without being seen. The chat box is a great alternative to blurting out your question but as Audrey Johnson, also a junior, knows, it is important to double-check the recipient. She asked her Spanish teacher to repeat something, only to realize that she had sent it to the entire class. 

Breakout rooms are always a gamble. Sometimes, as Blake Grudzien knows, you barely get to work with your group members. Once, all of his fellow breakout room occupants decided to “mute their mics and turn off their videos,” after quickly saying hello, and completed the group assignment alone. Other times, group members can be a little too familiar. Michela Garey was once put in a breakout room with only her twin sister. 

If your group members seem reluctant to talk, don’t worry; it’s not you. English teacher, Ms. Glatt, understands that sometimes her students need a break from Zoom but said she was “surprised by how reluctant many freshmen are to engage with video,” given their eagerness to use video-based Tik Tok. 

It’s not only students who have mixed feelings. Another Santa Rosa High School English teacher, Mr. Jones has accidentally closed breakout rooms seconds after opening them more than once, leading to a confusing shuffle of students. 

On the other hand, history teacher Mr. Horner says that breakout rooms are the only way “to build at least a bit of a personal relationship” and enjoys the chance to work with a few students at a time. He adds that “without Zoom or some other ‘face to face’ technology, school couldn’t really happen in any meaningful way at all.”

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