The School Bell: Distance Learning in the Age of a Pandemic
By: Natalie Ingalls, Falls Church High School
It’s a strange feeling, waking up knowing that you’re free to attend classes in your pajamas. This has been the reality of distance learning as schools have closed across the country due to COVID-19. Pajamas aside, participating in distance learning, as a high schooler, has been nothing short of interesting and is worth reflecting on as students put down their laptops and head outside for the beginning of summer.
During the first week of classes conducted online, there was hesitancy from teachers and students alike as we tried to get used to this new way of learning. Confronted with audio problems, connectivity issues, and confusing websites, teachers had to adjust their usual methods of teaching in a way that worked with technology. Students, on the other hand, wrestled with their participation. Even if they were allowed to share video and audio of themselves over calls, should they? Or was it safer and less embarrassing to use the chat feature, albeit less personal. Both parties struggled with feeling comfortable in their new learning environment. However, as the days progressed, the initial uncertainty began to wane. The awkwardness disappeared as one teacher showed off her new puppy, and another had his kids pop in to say hello. Students shared what they’d been doing during quarantine, and seniors announced where they were going to college in the fall. While nothing beats learning in the classroom together, moving online offered students and teachers a little insight into the personal lives of each other, which made the experience more meaningful.
The closure of schools has not just affected learning though. In addition to the time spent in the classroom, students often dedicate hours to clubs, sports and other after school activities. Being unable to participate in these activities left many with an excessive amount of free time. The need to fill this time to avoid boredom has been a blessing in that it has allowed students to discover interesting hobbies and new passions. Personally, over the past few weeks I’ve taught myself how to make bracelets, completed an online psychology course, and taken up running. I’ve had more time to try new recipes, write music, and binge old episodes of Parks and Recreation. Pastimes that I would consider a luxury to participate in back when school was fully in session have now become integrated into my everyday life. While being homebound undoubtedly has its challenges, the diversion from a regular routine has been valuable in fostering creativity and in giving students a break from their normally hectic lives.
The coronavirus pandemic has not been without its immense tragedies. We were told to stay home for a reason, and we must not forget that reason as the country begins reopening. Hopefully, armed with the proper knowledge, our country’s citizens will take steps to ensure that schools and other operations can open normally in the fall. While the future remains unclear, it is reassuring to know that we can survive, and even thrive, as a nation at home.
Falls Church High School
7521 Jaguar Trail
Falls Church, VA 22044
(Students who reside on the north side of Annandale attend Falls Church High School)