The Ups and Downs of Virtual Eighth Grade
Hello. My name is Noah and I am an 8th grader in San Francisco.
School has always been a bit of a struggle for me. I never got very good grades and I never loved school, but I know that going is how I can become educated, forge my own career path, and hopefully have a joyful and impactful life. I hope to shape a better future for myself and the world through my education.
This school year, however, education has changed.
Online school and being in a classroom are very different — so different that it is hard to compare them. On one hand, being in a classroom, where you can ask questions and be more engaged, has its benefits. It also can cause lots of stress and anxiety. In my opinion, distance learning is superior. As long as I manage to stay focused on the lessons, there is far less cause for anxiety. It suits my learning style far better, even with its downsides.
One issue with distance learning is the amount of time I spend looking at a screen. Although online lessons only last three to four hours a day, teachers make up for less frequent and shorter classes by assigning lots of online work. People, it seems, don’t realize that having shorter classes doesn’t equal less screen time.
Another downside is virtual classes make it far harder to communicate with teachers and fellow classmates. If I want to ask my teachers a question outside of class, I need to email them and it may take some time to hear back. Also, online learning makes it so that I can no longer communicate with my friends during school. I’m social, and it gets lonely. It has been hard not to be able to talk to my friends at school for the majority of the day.
During distance learning, my grades have gotten better — and I can say the same is true for a good number of my classmates. I believe this is because we feel less pressure and we have time allocated to do our work, which is very, very helpful. Also, in lots of my in-school classes, I had trouble organizing and keeping track of what felt like a million pieces of paper. With distance learning, I no longer have that problem.
Distance learning brings certain topics to life, too. For example, in history class, this year, we might look at a slideshow or create a fake social media profile for a historical figure. Previously, we would have just read pages out of a textbook. It’s more engaging this way — and I believe that’s one of the main reasons why my grades have gone up.
Although distance learning has its positives, it has its concerning aspects, as well. On top of the amount of screen time required and the lack of social interaction, it’s too easy for students to do something that they shouldn’t be doing during class time. It’s up to us as individuals to remain focused, and that’s hard. The quality of the education may be lesser, too. We seem to cover less material in distance learning and that could affect my future. For example, we skipped a little bit more than one-third of what we were supposed to learn in history class at the end of the last school year. I’m not sure how we will ever get a chance to cover content that students in normal, non-pandemic years would learn.
It has also been particularly hard for me to understand assignments sometimes; when a teacher asks me to summarize or organize notes in a certain way, it is very hard to know exactly what they want. Something else to take into consideration are the pressures put on teachers. Many of my teachers are getting behind on grading and often do not respond to emails because they are too swamped creating lesson plans and taking care of their own families — their children are distance learning at home, too.
In conclusion, I would like to reinforce two things adults should know about how distance learning impacts young people. The first is how lonely distance learning can make us feel. Lots of kids’ social interaction comes at school, and when students cannot really talk or have recess together, we feel lonely and sad. The second thing is that the amount of screen time is rough. A full day of being in online classes can make us feel super depressed and irritable. If you are a parent and your kid has just had a full day of computer time, take them outside.
Thanks for listening,