On Friday, March 13, I happily stepped out of the St. Christopher School doors to a warm, beautiful spring day. I never would have imagined that that would be my last day of my nine years at St. Christopher School.
Looking forward to all the end-of-the-year celebrations and events, I was fully confident that we’d be back in school in a week or two. But as time went on, the quarantine kept being extended. In the beginning, I was given assignments on Google Classroom, an online platform for teachers to post work and attachments. Eventually, we all had to learn about Zoom, the video-chatting app, to meet with people.
Ultimately, we fell into a routine of regular meetings. We were given worksheets, reading and writing assignments in either actual books or online and we were even given tests online, too. In the beginning, it didn’t feel like such a big deal as students, as well as parents and teachers, thought it was still temporary. But when the possibility of not going back to school became reality, we had to accept this form of learning as the new normal.
I think it definitely must have been hard for the teachers to adapt to the new technology. Instead of my math teacher standing in front of the class writing on a chalkboard, she had to learn to use a virtual whiteboard to demonstrate algebra and geometry in Zoom meetings. This new way of learning also made it harder for teachers to enforce attendance, good behavior, and to make sure students turned assignments in. It also presented challenges and disadvantages for kids that did not have access to technology. I am also aware that many kids did not have a good experience due to the lack of structure or because they couldn’t stay focused.
For me, personally, I did miss a few things, such as the buzz of the halls and the cafeteria at lunchtime, because that was sort of my time to re-energize. However, I thought that this way of learning was quite manageable for me and I actually liked it. It forced me to become more responsible by creating my own schedule for my Zoom meetings and my own hand-crafted school day since there were no bells or teachers shifting topics. I found it less stressful because I got to work at my own pace which helped if I needed to go faster or slower on certain topics. As a result of at-home learning, I was able to get more sleep, I had time to pursue other interests not taught in school, like photography and videography, and I had more quality time with family, playing games and watching movies.
Going forward I think that having a more social learning environment would have been more beneficial to students because in school, students are usually happier to be around classmates and to get that type of interaction. While in quarantine, there was mostly student-teacher interactions and we lost the physical feeling of interacting in the classroom and working together on group projects. I think that maybe some student-student interactive activities online and assigning group projects and requiring them to be turned in would give back to that aspect.
I also feel that attention should be paid to special subjects like art, gym, and music. I think that the main focus and priority was on the core subjects and not on the arts, which are important outlets that benefit kids and their future pursuits. The arts and physical education are also ways to reduce stress and are ways for students to express themselves. Right now, more than ever, while we are spending so much time at home, the arts and exercise are needed to keep people calm and give them things to do outside of academics, to create with their hands, instruments, or voices. Also, the use of pre-recorded videos showing step by step directions on how to solve math problems was very helpful in my opinion, so maybe teachers could create more videos in the future. Lastly, in the face of these new challenges, I think the best thing would be for us all to do our best and keep a positive attitude towards learning.