Do you remember the Friday before Spring Break 2020? The liberating feeling of your mouth not being covered by fabric? Being allowed to sit a nanometer from your friends? Going to school with everyone instead of just people whose descendants decided on a last name that just happened to be close to yours in the alphabet? What about seeing your teachers every day to the point where you almost got tired of them? It sure does sound like a utopia now. Who knew we would ever romanticize such normal activities?
Online school is something most, if not all, teens in the US have experienced since last March. For the fourth quarter of the 2019-2020 school year, teachers had to adapt to an entirely new teaching system within a week, which is unimaginably difficult. St. Andrew’s went through different methods of online class to find the best fit for their students, but there is always room for improvement. Over the summer, the school worked to enhance our learning experience for the 2020-2021 school year, deciding on a variety of programs: Saints At Home for early childhood, a fully virtual on-campus Middle School cohort, and hybrid or fully virtual at home for Middle and Upper School. Many Upper School students chose to start in the hybrid schedule, rotating between in-person and virtual classes every other day. This decision generated many different opinions from the SA student body.
“I prefer my in-person day at school because it makes this year feel normal,” Freshman Emily Ireland said. “It is hard to sit in front of my computer all day long. It starts to get annoying after the second or third class.”
Freshmen like Ireland are faced with the difficult reality of not experiencing the transformative first year of high school normally, while the seniors struggle with the fact that they will not finish out their high school careers in the way that they have expected for the past twelve years.
“It is sad that we can’t have a normal year because we have been looking forward to being seniors for so long,” Senior Ellie Peterson said. “I miss being able to see everyone at school every day and going to events like football games and homecoming.”
One factor remains constant: we all want life back to normal. Still, it is important to stay optimistic; some students are enjoying this unusual experience of online school.
“I love online school because it lets me have a break from the typical “school” environment,” Sophomore Sophie Lewis said. “I am able to work from home without stressing and having to engage with other people all day long.”
Understandably though, there is always a downside on the slippery slopes of online school. Most students have discovered that it is harder to connect with teachers while online.
“Faulty internet connections cause problems for online school,” Junior Advikaa Annand said. “There are days where we can barely hear our teachers, and having hearing loss, that is particularly frustrating.”
Senior Samantha Smith has contradictory opinions. At first, she believed she wouldn’t enjoy online school, but soon found she prefers it over in-person during these odd circumstances.
“Normally I wouldn’t like online school in a regular school year, but I honestly have found myself enjoying my days at home more than at school because the campus is very boring now,” Smith said. “I miss seeing my friends every day and hanging out with them in the library. It is sad but I prefer online school with the 70-minute classes because sitting in a classroom for 70 minutes learning one subject at a time is mentally and physically draining.”
Other students made the decision to attend fully online for the first quarter. It is easy to begin feeling even more isolated when noticing others engaging in in-person activities at school.
“The first few weeks of online school were rough because I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to see people who were actually at school and talking in-person,” Junior Avery Stallings said. “It made me really miss my friends and my teachers and all of the random things that would happen throughout the day. I hadn’t realized how much motivation I got from simply being with people and laughing with them.”
Through time, Stallings has been able to find her own silver lining in being physically isolated.
“I’ve gotten to talk to people in my classes that I haven’t gotten to talk to as much in the past because when you are completely virtual the only people you see are the people in your class,” Stallings said. “It’s different but it has definitely been nice to talk to new people.”
The current worldwide situation is rapidly changing the way students attend school. These experiences, although unfortunate, are teaching us at a young age how to adapt to given circumstances that are out of our control. It is okay to feel down and even hopeless about COVID-19 and online school, but try to find your little ray of sunshine in the storm.