The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has impacted the world with extreme measures, pushing society to adapt to a new form of normal life. However, people have begun to slowly adapt to the new environments and norms of the pandemic.
Most schools began to utilize distance learning environments, allowing students to attend classes over online sessions. Despite the successful transitions of classes during the pandemic, not all classes were able to adapt as easily as others, such as physical education and music education.
One example of these classes is the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program at Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta, California. AFJROTC is a student-centered program that develops character, citizenship and leadership in teenagers. Cadets follow and live by the Air Force’s Core Values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.
Part of its curriculum includes a foundation training called 30 Step, in which upperclassmen demonstrate and teach new cadets about basic drills, such as “Right Face” or “Parade Rest,” that is used as a grading criteria to conduct evaluations. However, this proved a significant challenge over the digital environment, according to Cadet Technical Sergeant Ryan Cho.
“Trying to teach over Zoom was difficult,” Cho, a junior in the program, said. “Because 30 Step is best learned physically with someone to help you, making sure our AS1’s freshmen were understanding the procedures was extremely hard.”
As upperclassmen tried to engage with their new underclassmen over the new environment, the obstacles of a virtual setting hindered abilities to communicate and bond over activities. With about a 1:3 ratio between upper and underclassmen, it was reportedly hard to make sure all of the new cadets were learning correctly.
Despite the barriers of communication, the cadets were able to still find ways to make their program work. In order to encourage social interaction and cooperation, classes would include fun activities such as complicated riddles and online games. Popular team building activities amongst the cadets were games such as Among Us and Gartic Phone.
Master Sergeant Alvin M. Johnson, a retired veteran from the Air Force and current Aerospace Science Instructor for the AFJROTC program at CVHS, said, “Our program is strong on student team building, and the bonds that we have with one another are extremely close. We are probably one of, or if the only, class that knows everyone in our program personally, which is one of the important aspects of JROTC.”
Programs like the AFJROTC program that require in-person participation did face a variety of hardships but were able to make the best of it. Schools are now beginning to re-open as the pandemic ends, allowing classes to resume in-person and provide the full high school experience.