Few will disagree that the world is full of hardship during this unprecedented time. With a pandemic that appears to have no end in sight, rampant west coast fires that have taken dozens of lives and destroyed thousands of homes and buildings, nationwide unrest over racism and equity issues, and people facing personal or financial hardship, students have an additional challenge: They are isolated from friends and learning at home.
Distance learning has been an adjustment as classes meet on Zoom or Google Meet on computers, with no students on campus. Most music, performance, arts and extra-curricular programs including sports are mostly on hold. However, nearly one-fourth into the school year, many Northgate students when asked say they can optimistically see some silver linings that couldn’t occur in regular school. Students offered wide-ranging responses when asked about positive experiences while in school at home.
Senior Zoe Moss said she did not expect to be learning from home for her last year. Hopeful to return and nearly two months into the year, she says is adjusting.
“I think we’re all disappointed that we don’t get to physically be at school in the final year before we go off to college, but I’m pleasantly surprised that things have gone as smoothly as they have,” Moss said. “Teachers have been consistent with all the class work and staying engaged during the video calls, which I thought would take a couple weeks to figure out.”
The biggest “pro” that many students mentioned is that they like the way the new schedule is set up, whether it be more sleep or more homework time.
“Something that is going well this year in distance learning is that the school made schedule changes for the fall that helped organize zoom calls and work which is much better than in the spring, when everything was disorganized and everywhere,” said sophomore Alyssa Bradburn.
“I like that schools are starting laters than normal school so I can get more sleep,” said sophomore Kimi André. “I also like how some schools and teachers are accommodating for our needs and well being.”
“What I have liked so far in distance learning is how I get to sleep in,” sophomore Lauren Kaplan said. “Sleeping in is always great because I am ready to learn and I am less tired.”
Sophomore Chloe Mannion cited the opportunity to start fresh. “Learning from home has been a great learning experience for new problems and situations. Everyone has been learning how to manage their new ‘school’ and the different skills that have come with the technology. It has definitely been difficult for everyone, but we are quickly finding ways to adapt.
During this time I’ve been able to practice my drawing skills and I have seen a lot of improvement! It’s also been a good time for me to clear through and clean up things I no longer need. It’s been a good time for me to start from a clean slate, and I’m sure it is for many others, too.”
Time with family has also been a definite, said some students.
“Some things that I have actually like during distance learning is coming out of my room for lunch and going to check on the rest of my family,” Allison Webster, a sophomore said. “My two younger sisters are being home-schooled this year by my mom and have found some exciting projects and activities to do. The most recent project I walked in on with my mom and my sisters creating elephant toothpaste for chemistry. I also have enjoyed eating lunch ‘off campus’,” she said, adding that she and friends sometimes go out for lunch. “We can do this because we have at least an hour-long lunch.”
Webster also pointed to more sleep as a plus. “Last school year I had A period every day and left the house at 6:40 and I didn’t get to see any of my family. Now that I have A period only two days a week I get to enjoy more time with my family.”
“Even though distance learning has been a difficult adjustment I’ve really enjoyed the extra time it’s given me,” remarked sophomore Jerlene Chiu. “Usually I become so busy with school work that I don’t get a chance to spend time with my family or pick up hobbies. Shelter-in-place has made me see what I used to take for granted and now I learn to appreciate it.”
Sophomore Natalie Mar said she has been making time for activities she enjoys. “I have always baked, but with more free time on my hands than ever before I have been trying more difficult recipes,” Mar said. “Often, my sister and I bake together, and that’s what makes baking truly special. Altogether, even though it’s been hard not to see my friends or return back to normal life, distance learning gives all of us time to focus on what’s important and keeps us safe.”
Students also say they like the relative freedom they’ve experienced during the shelter-in-place.
“Despite all the chaos happening we are still able to go outside and see friends,” freshman Peter Galbraith said. “We can even play sports and although not to our usual capacity, at least we can.”
Macey Harlow summed up distance learning, both the good and the bad, also offering a look to the future as schools and districts contemplate when and how schools will reopen. “A lot of the time I don’t want to do my work because it stinks to sit in your room all day doing just the boring parts of school,” Harlow said.
“A couple days ago my mom sent me a post on Instagram about online school. It made me realize that while distance learning can be hard, sometime in the future, everyone will be back at normal school and that will be just as hard. The social anxiety of constantly being around our peers will return, the stress of having tons of homework plus extracurriculars every day will come back, and we’ll have to wake up so dang early again,” Harlow said. “I might prefer one type of hard over another, but for now I’m just going to enjoy this little break and be thankful that I can wear my pajamas to first period!”