Above: Frances and Henry McAndrew doing school at home.
By Aiza Shaikh
Six weeks ago, I never would’ve pictured the rest of my school year taking place online. Back then, I was sitting at a desk in a classroom at the high school. Taking notes and glancing at the whiteboard. Raising my hand to ask questions. I can’t experience any of that anymore, not even with distance learning.
“Distance learning” is the name for the virtual classroom plan that all Rhode Island public schools have created to deal with the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is probably the best option for these months, it still doesn’t compare to school.
A lot of students, like me, have mixed feelings on distance learning. It’s been a good way for us to keep everything we’ve learned from school fresh in our minds. But it’s also been tough not being in a school environment surrounded by our classmates and teachers.
One thing that helps make distance learning feel a little normal is each day’s schedule. While our daily assignments don’t have to be submitted until midnight, all students are still encouraged to check their class assignments each morning at 8 a.m. That way, we can do our classwork around the same time blocks as if we were really in school.
“I like that there’s much less homework because we do most of our work during the daytime,” said Emerson McEvoy, a senior at EGHS.
“I really like distance learning because I feel like it’s very efficient. It removes lunch times and in-between class times and makes the school day shorter,” said EGHS junior Leah Valente. “I have found it takes a lot of self-discipline to do work early in the day, though.”
For a lot of us, it’s become much harder staying focused on our school work since we aren’t exactly sitting in a classroom.
“At school you don’t need to worry about getting distracted,” said sixth grade Cole student Jennifer Chen.
It’s also been difficult keeping up with different teachers’ schedules and assignment deadlines.
“It’s hard to keep track of when everything is due,” said Olivia LaHue, an EGHS junior.
“Sometimes teachers have Zoom calls or Google Hangouts that overlap with each other, which is frustrating,” added junior Hannah Desjarlais.
While distance learning does have its downsides, there are a few positive things about it. Many of us have had the time to do things we didn’t have time for during school, including sleep.
“Getting enough sleep is so healthy and important,” said junior Miguel Figueroa.
“I like having more time to exercise and read books that aren’t for school,” said Valente.
Twins Frances and Henry McAndrew, who go to Eldredge, have had a great time with distance learning.
“I think it’s better than school. We get to stay in our pajamas. I can ask my teachers any questions I have during their office hours,” said Francis.
Several teachers have picked out a time slot during the day called “office hours,” during which students can video chat with them and ask questions.
“We get as many breaks as we want,” said Henry. “And we get to go outside much more.”
Even with all these benefits, distance learning still isn’t the same as school. Many of us can’t wait to go back to the classroom setting.
“I think we all acclimated to it pretty quickly but I definitely miss school a lot,” said senior Beria Hos.
“It’s sad because you can’t see your friends and teachers,” said Cole sixth-grader Lily Tremble.
It’s been a difficult time for all of us – students and teachers. Gov. Gina Raimondo has yet to decide whether or not to have students return to the classroom. While some of us might hope to go back this school year, that might not happen. Still, at some point, we will be back and things will be normal again.
Reporter Aiza Shaikh is a junior at East Greenwich High School.