A Conversation with Full Distance Students

By Kaelin Viera

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly brought upon challenges for all students, regardless of age or academic ability. EGHS trudged through the last quarter online, but the 2020-21 school year has yielded changes. The school, now under new authority, introduced a hybrid learning option. Before classes began, students could elect to stay online or go in-person two days a week, varying based on their last name. Full remote learning has come a long way since March, but are the minority of the student body who chose it content? Being an online student myself, I talked to others undergoing this process to gain more insight.

Although separated by their workspaces, most distance students seem to share similar impressions of the current system. Predictably, many cite safety concerns as a reason to not step foot back into the building. Junior Gabe Reynolds told me, “I quarantined for all of the 6 or so months before school started, and I just thought, ‘Why stop now? If I can save a life by doing something this small, I might as well,’ and just ran with it.” They remain divided in their views of last spring, however. Some enjoyed the free time, while others were dissatisfied with the independence and felt teachers just wanted to finish the year. In contrast, the present, largely synchronous schedule appears to be beneficial. Students Ava White and Kenzie Dymek, class of 2023, agree that the google meets each day are far more engaging. Kenzie says, “It definitely feels more natural and normal this way.” Many also appreciate sites like Kahoot and Quizlet Live, which bring both sides of the class together.

Despite the challenges overcome, students are still understandably frustrated with the barriers of this education style, namely technology issues and poor communication. Nearly every student I contacted mentioned the inefficiency of school chromebooks, how they are not meant for longterm work six hours a day. The slow speed causes them to rely on other devices and only adds another layer of stress. Hybrid students also face these challenges, but distance learners are also taxed through a lack of bonding with peers and teachers. Some have felt entirely ignored in classes as instructors focus solely on those in front of them, perhaps forgetting not everyone at home will see them face-to-face in two days. When asked what he misses about in-person learning besides his friends, sophomore Zalmay Ahmad replied, “My enemies.” Though comical, the aforementioned human connection is essential to forming a positive high school experience. 

The most attractive part of full remote learning is, arguably, the free time. Students seem to be split on whether they spend more or less time on work than before and how that compares to hybrid kids, likely a consequence of an individual’s work ethic and their different classes. Most are confident in their decision, however, and would keep up with it until Coronavirus cases are down. The same may not be totally true for hybrid students. Zalmay Ahmad informed me about a friend of his who pretends to be sick to get out of in-person schooling, despite numerous email attempts to switch out. Nonetheless, each student is distinct and knows what is best for them and it is crucial that teachers and classmates be understanding.

Kids on both sides are struggling, but those I spoke to offered some advice for getting through a day at home. Be sure to have a secure set-up if possible, where you can be seen and get involved in class discussions as much as you can. Additionally, try to establish an everyday routine so you can at least count on consistency in your own life. It is easier said than done, but will help make the day a little easier. Ava White emphasizes the value in reaching out to teachers for help when necessary, because it is easy to fall behind. Owen Thibodeau, a sophomore, has found breaks in between classes to be comforting and a great excuse to get up and stretch. With proper support and comprehension of what others go through, EGHS can move towards a further unified environment and thrive.

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