By Mia Schenenga
Walking into school in mid-September for the first time in six months was surreal. Sitting down at a desk in a room with other people, yet with all of them wearing masks – that was a long-awaited “new normal,” according to many students. Starting off a new school year during a pandemic has had its ups and downs, with some students full distance learning while others are working with a new hybrid model. In hybrid learning, students with last names starting with A-Kl come in-person on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and then distance learn on Thursdays and Fridays, while last names beginning with Km-Z do exactly the opposite. As a result, every class is always a mix of both in-person students and distance learners, throwing a curveball at both students and teachers in what used to be the typical idea of a classroom environment and strategies for engaging students during class.
As many agree, hybrid learning is “difficult to perfect,” as Riley Gopalakrishnan, a sophomore, said. “And honestly,” she continued, “they’re doing a pretty good job with it.” Catering to both distance learners and in-person students is not an easy task, and many students recognize this and appreciate all the work that teachers and administrators are doing to make things run smoothly. When distance learning, long Google Meets throughout the duration of each class was a general negative aspect of the hybrid model. Most students feel much more engaged and feel they learn better on the in-person days, on which days there is less screen time and distractions in general. However, the effects of longer classes are being felt on both distance and in-person ends. Multiple students said they feel that they “check out” towards the end of classes, and aren’t learning as well with only having each class twice a week for eighty minutes, rather than the previous year’s hour long classes occurring three to four times a week.
Additionally, only going into school twice a week in the hybrid model is majorly impacting the development of student-teacher relationships throughout all classes. “I think it’s great that we can go into school some of the days,” said student Pyper Smith, “but [not to the fault of the teachers] there is definitely a lack of a relationship and physical engagement between the students and the teachers.” Likewise, sophomore Lily Shaughnessy said that “some classes require all online work and not as much teacher interaction, and in this way the whole class is basically online even though technically half is in-person. There is no perfect system.” The connection between students and teachers is one of the most valued parts of class at EGHS, and this year it has been tough for students to have the opportunity to create this connection.
Learning in this new hybrid model isn’t easy, but students are learning to adapt and really appreciate the effort that they see teachers making to do the same. While it’s clear that there is no perfect method to teach and engage both the students in class and at home, the pandemic seems to have changed how many, if not all, students feel about their days in school, seeing them as an opportunity both to see peers and friends, as well as attending in-person class time. In a time like no other, the start to this year has been full of challenges and a need for flexibility and adaptation, but most students are happy and relieved to be returning to school and to what is now our “new normal.”