When I googled “school,” the first result was a generic, red, schoolhouse with a flag and a clock on the outside. As far down as I scrolled, I didn’t see a single computer screen or Zoom icon.
However, the computer screen is quickly becoming the reality for practically every student around the US.
For some people, this online education is vastly different. As reported by USA Today, two girls had to study outside of Taco Bell using their free WiFi. These girls will have even more distractions, like background noise and people walking by. Their study environment will differ greatly from when they were in school.
My friends at public schools had asynchronous learning for the rest of the last school year with mostly independent work and very little interaction with their teachers at school, and this year they had the option to choose between a hybrid plan or a stay-at-home plan. While that plan did a good job of keeping them safe, it made students who wanted to go to school completely in-person feel unhappy with the plan because so many teachers and students were absent that it seemed they were still isolated at school.
For me, my experience was different, to say the least.
This past spring, my school announced an emergency distance learning plan on Zoom or doing an asynchronous lesson. While this plan had its flaws, it was undoubtedly much more engaging than the schedule my friends got from their public schools, which basically just gave them the work to do without much interaction.
Last year, we had homework posted on different sites, such as Google Classroom, Blackbaud, Pearson Realize and more. However, this year, all of our homework is on Google Classroom, which is much easier to manage.
At the beginning of this school year, we stayed home and had distance learning, which usually consisted of synchronous learning for at least part of the class. An important aspect of my online education was my WiFi and computer.
On the computer I use to attend class, my school installed Zoom for meetings and tracking apps that would see what I was doing on my computer during school hours. This helped me to stay focused in a time when distractions were just a click away.
My school also requires us to buy our own textbooks instead of providing it. While this may be more costly, I know that my textbook is mine, and thus I am responsible for it and also have access to it any time. When my school had to go online, I was able to take these textbooks back home.
Additionally, my school provided a landing page linked to the different sites we needed for schoolwork. One of the sites it linked onto was the schedule, which in turn provided all the Zoom links for each class. Another site was the page with all of the teacher’s emails, which made it easier for students like me to contact our own teachers.
This page was extremely helpful for me, especially when I navigated through my first day of school. In this aspect, my education may also have been easier than students who may have not had a cohesive website with all of the necessary links.
Now, after starting the school year with three weeks of distance learning online, we are actually going back to school in person, five days a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. We socially distance and are required to wear masks.
The school has kept the distance learning program open for the students who want to stay online, but the majority of us are doing learning in person. Our electives, rotations and normal core classes are still there, and they are just as long as a normal class was when there was no COVID-19.
All things considered, my education has not changed a lot the way that most people’s education has. I still go to school, see my friends, and participate in activities. We were put into groups and had classes with the people in our groups only. We also were not encouraged to interact with different groups. However, the school tried their best to put us with our friends, and the system worked very well.
Compared with many other people, such as students without a good study environment or WiFi access like the two girls doing homework in front of Taco Bell, I am lucky to have a good school system and minimal distractions.
My educational experience during COVID-19 is clearly different from others, but I hope that others might see my experiences, gain ideas for how schooling can be done in their own neighborhoods and know that they are not alone in this confusing time.