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We Are Stuck With Distance Learning. Now What?

April 2020. Zoom call with coffee. (Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash)

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

Currently, there is so much to talk about in the news: violent demonstrations erupting across the nation, a few hurricanes demolishing thousands of houses, and a Presidential election drawing closer every day. However, back in my hometown of La Cañada, my local unified school district began its first quarter with distance learning due to the increase of COVID-19 cases.

Our school schedule changed from the regular schedule (8:30 A.M. -3:15 P.M.) to distance learning schedule (8:25 A.M. -1:35 P.M.) to make the periods forty minutes as opposed to sixty minutes. Thus, the periods are seemingly fast because of the time to take attendance, go over homework, or waiting for the WiFi to do its job.

For a freshman taking two honors class, this is inconsequential because his classes are not rigorous or demanding. However, for the senior taking six Advanced Placement classes, this is detrimental to his ability to consume the required information to achieve a high grade.

Two weeks in, and it feels like an entire semester has finished. Yet, it is not the academic rigor that makes the classes seem to drag on; it is the lack of in-person interaction. For example, eating lunch with a group of friends in a grassy area under an oak tree is more enjoyable than eating by yourself at the kitchen table.

Furthermore, asking for help in person is better than asking for help over a zoom call. For Math and Science, it would be hard to hold up the notebook to the computer camera and wait for the teacher to answer the question while they press their face against their screen. For History and English, annotations are irrelevant unless the student is willing to print out every google document. In all four subjects, volatile internet connection or damaged microphones prolong conversations or make a lecture seem tedious.

When a teacher is giving a lesson, being in person requires a greater effort to listen than over a screen with devices serving as a distraction.

Athletics, clubs, extracurriculars, and virtually every enjoyable activity is suspended or expelled in the school of distance learning. My school newspaper is forced to move from physical copies of a monthly newspaper to an online news website. For Model United Nations and the Debate team, tournaments and competitions are all online, decimating any exhilaration or enjoyment from public speaking.

However, I do not want this article to be misinterpreted as a justification for in-person schooling. In my home state of California, cases and deaths are increasing every single day. Opening public and private schools in California would be a public health risk to those with a greater probability of dying from COVID-19.

With these perceived grievances and inconveniences from distance learning should come patience and understanding from all involved parties. We are two weeks into distance learning, which means teachers are still evidently tolerant and patient with all the misfortunes of distance learning. However, as the school year progresses, teachers may become overwhelmed and impatient with their students or the current situation.

While there are very little things students and teachers can do about COVID-19, except wear a mask, there is so much they can do about the complicated style of schooling. Teachers will be stressed out with deadlines, drastic adjustments, and school budget cuts. While on the other hand, students, mostly juniors and seniors, will be stressed out with college admissions, shortened periods, and six weighted classes. With all this mayhem and uncertainty, the greatest solution is empathy.

For example, students should not always ask about their grades and letters of recommendation. It will be completed, in most cases, but being an annoyance will not solve anything. The same goes for teachers; when a student is late for class, try to ask for a reason for their tardiness instead of bombarding them with accusatory insinuations. In a sense, there needs to be an effort on both sides of school to get through this complicated system.

Finally, in an article I wrote in March, I said, “While the government plays a crucial role, it is the people’s tenacity and inclination that will be the driving force in defeating this pandemic.” With millions of infections and thousands of deaths, I continue to believe this, and as we enter a complicated school system, the same is applied. The fruition of the lessons we learn and the lectures we attend is dependent on every single person’s commitment to better education.

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

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