From Fun Hall to Dull Hall: How Grammy Tammy Made Study Hall Fun and What Happened When the Pandemic Changed it all

Francie Mueller, Staff Writer

It is the last block of the day and a bright “Hi y’all” rings out loud and clear in the virtual WebEx world. That can only mean one thing: it is time for class with Tamara Dyck. More commonly referred to as Grammy Tammy, Dyck is the bubbly study hall teacher at Erie High School.

She makes it her mission to not only provide a place to study but a place where students, specifically freshmen, can feel calm amidst the tumultuous sea that is high school.

Dyck knows first hand how hard it is to start high school, as 9th grade was one of the roughest years of her life.

“You are kind of excited but you are also petrified and feel like you are going to barf,” she explains, “I wish somebody would have said certain things to me. So now I am trying to say it to others.”

Dyck wants to make sure that students starting high school gain knowledge that she never had during her own 9th-grade experience. 

“When you can’t help yourself, they say sometimes it’s easier to help others,” Dyck says.

She can not go back in time and tell her freshmen self how to handle the first year of high school, so she does the next best thing: helping kids who are experiencing it right now. With 10 years of teaching preschool and a psychotherapy license under her belt, she knows exactly how to present herself as an easy-to-talk-to figure.

“I guess I’ve always had a grandma presence in person. For the last, 15, 16 years I’ve been a grandma, and so in person, some kids are more comfortable talking to me.”

Dyck makes sure it is known to the students in her class that she is very approachable and easy to talk to. After all, who is more approachable than a grandma?

“She isn’t judging at all,” explains freshmen study hall student Riley Woodard, “She makes you feel comfortable around her.”

Students agree that Dyck’s persona is very calm and welcoming. They would be glad to talk to her and would not feel embarrassed about asking for help.

Dyck also knows how to make study hall less boring than just doing assignments and studying. She lets the kids know that she does not shy away from fun. Her classroom always has music playing and students talking to one another.

“She plays music, but lets you listen to your own music if you want to, says Woodard, “She also lets you sit next to your friends as long as you aren’t too loud.”

Study hall with Dyck is more relaxing and less stressful than an average class. She does not force kids to work; she realizes that if they want to do assignments and get good grades, they will without her telling them to.

 “She makes it super low key and makes an environment that makes you want to do your work,” Woodard describes.

Dyck knows full well that a lot of teenagers do not really like being told what to do, so she makes study hall a place where students will do their work on their own terms. That is what study hall would look like, during normal times at least. Then the pandemic struck and pitched a curveball; online school.

“I knew we were going to go back to remote,” Dyck explains, “There [are] a couple of doctors in our family, they were saying when people started getting back out the numbers were gonna go up.”

Dyck knew it was inevitable school would return online after a short venture into hybrid learning. Being virtual means changing the whole concept of study hall. 

“I think in person I can make people more comfortable than through a screen,” Dyck explains.

Dyck is an expert at study hall when it comes to in-person school, but hybrid is a little bit more of a challenge. Relying solely on technology can be hard, especially when you are an adult, and weren’t raised on it

“I wasn’t brought up like this, my ageism is hard, “ she admits, “I’m having to overcome all this.”

Unlike the students she works with in study hall, Dyck was not brought up with technology, so she is still adapting to using it constantly. That is not the only obstacle that comes with doing online learning.

“The kids are feeling like they do not want to bother anybody,” says Dyck.

She realizes that kids do not feel as comfortable opening up and asking for help over WebEx, and started interviewing her grandkids more to gather insight.

“I don’t normally do that, but if I know what they’re going through, then I can figure out what I need to talk about,” Dyck explains.

Through talking to her grandkids, she realized that instead of talking about organizational skills and good study habits, she needs to talk to her students more about anxiety and mental health. 

“So the psychotherapist in me realized that anxiety, depression, the fear of never having to go this or who in my family is going to die, are all things people are thinking about now,” Dyck iterates. 

This pandemic is a new experience for everyone, so there is a lot of uncertainty going around. It is an important time to not only focus on schoolwork but on your own well-being and everyone else’s. 

“I have never said so many times ‘d’s get degrees’ than I have this year because it is okay for some kids to just get by. They are doing their best they can; we don’t know what their home life is like,” Dyck explains. 

She understands that the most important thing during this uncertain time is to establish good mental health and focus on safety, so, she incorporates talk about stress and anxiety into her usual talk about grades and schoolwork.

Tamara Dyck is more than just the study hall teacher at Erie High School, she is also a caring person who will always grant help to those who need it. Whether a student needs help with their homework or needs advice on how to handle a personal problem, Grammy Tammy is always there to lend a helping hand. Even with all that has changed during the pandemic and all the new challenges that have arisen, her kindness and accountability have stayed the same.

Grammy Tammy with a mask. Like everybody else, she has had to adapt to living in the pandemic and doing everything online.
Tamara Dyck, also known as ‘Grammy Tammy’ is the study hall teacher at EHS.