Distance learning is hard.
Of course, nothing about living through a pandemic is easy. But, I will be the 1st to admit that the distance learning Campolindo students have been experiencing this past month is much more difficult than I anticipated.
On March 13, the district hosted an emergency Governing Board Meeting to decide whether or not to close school due to COVID-19. It was also the day after my 17th birthday. While I’d planned an elaborate trip to the city with a couple of my friends to celebrate, those plans were scrapped when the magnitude of the pandemic began to sink in. Instead, I met a friend for dinner at a restaurant where we social-distanced from other customers. Since 2 of La Puma’s editors were covering the emergency district Governing Board meeting, I set out to enjoy my birthday over dinner.
When the editors texted me that school would be closed until we would return from spring break, my friend and I were ecstatic. It felt like the perfect birthday present. We pictured an extended break of sorts, where we would meet up at Starbucks in small groups to study casually. We imagined a few hours of schoolwork every day, then grabbing lunch and going on hikes.
I, for one, thought that I would finally get a break from the stressful pandemonium that is the spring semester of junior year, which, in addition to the demands of school classes, would have been filled with sports, work, preparation for AP exams, state testing, and more.
For the 1st 2 weeks of the school closure, my days didn’t look too different from what I envisioned, aside from meeting up with my friends (stay home, everybody!). I slept in, did my homework, went for long walks and exercised, baked several times a week, FaceTimed my friends all the time, cleaned and organized my room, read for fun, and spent a lot of time on my phone and computer.
Since spring break ended and the district announced that school would be closed until the end of the year, however, my distance learning experience has become more challenging.
I consider myself a relatively organized person. I often create daily schedules for myself that are planned to 15-minute intervals. But, it takes an incredibly organized person to succeed at distance learning – and quite frankly, I’m not there yet.
I missed a Zoom office hours call 1 morning that I signed up for because I was working on an assignment for another class and lost track of time. I turned in an assignment late a couple of days ago because my phone died and I couldn’t take a photo to prove my work. I had all of these things recorded on my Google Calendar, but right now, my calendar looks more like a chaotic collage of due dates and Zoom calls rather than an organizer to keep my life in order.
Beyond that, I have dozens of emails to read in my Gmail account and Loop Mail account, assignments to find on Google Classroom, School Loop, Course Calendars, Illuminate, and more. Some students’ Zoom calls for English overlap with their calls for math. Some teachers assign 20 homework questions; others assign 4. It is difficult for me to navigate distance learning when each teacher asks for something different and each class has different demands.
For me, I sit at my desk for hours at a time for almost 10 hours each day. While this is less time than I spend on school normally, including the hours we would spend on campus, it feels different when I’m not interacting with teachers and peers and not moving to different classrooms.
In addition to the learning taking place at home, there are distractions everywhere: my phone is always somewhere in my house, my kitchen is 10 seconds away, and the books I’d rather be reading are lined up on my desk.
Also, it’s much harder to take breaks from school when my classroom and my bedroom occupy the same space. Even at night, after I’ve submitted all of my assignments for the day, I can’t help but feel that there’s something I’m supposed to be doing.
I did not realize how much I took for granted at school. I can’t count how many times I had previously written in my journal, “I’m stressed,” “I wish that I could have a break from school,” or “I wish that I had the time to do XYZ.” What I miss most of all is the little things about school, like sitting in the car with my friends before 1st period, saying “hi” to those random acquaintances in the hallways, and talking to classmates I only ever see at school.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that we still have the opportunity to learn and that our teachers are holding classes, providing study materials, and helping us as much as possible. I know that the transition to online learning has been extremely difficult for them as well, and many are creating high school lesson plans while simultaneously teaching their younger children\; we are lucky to have such dedicated instructors.
The pandemic has been taxing on everybody, and my hope is that we can acknowledge that we are all feeling overwhelmed and that this is a difficult period of adjustment. And, I hope that this recognition can lead us to behave compassionately, kindly, and patiently.
I came into distance learning thinking that it would be a welcome breath of fresh air and a nice change from school. While I could not have been more wrong, as difficult as distance learning may be, it’s important that we give it our full effort and give our teachers honest feedback to grant us the best learning experience in these times.