What Blair students and teachers think about online school so far.
The first quarter has come to a close, and teachers and students alike are starting to adjust to the new schedule. Although online school has been somewhat successful in providing students with a proper education, some improvements still need to be made in order for online school to completely be a success. For instance, the lack of socialization between classmates and the lack of student-teacher interaction is both negatively affecting student learning styles and teacher instructing styles.
Many students prefer in-person school since they can talk to their friends and see other people. In an online environment, the classroom structure consists of the teacher talking uninterrupted with little to no interaction between students. Sophomore Anushka Poddar further expresses her dislike but sympathizes with teachers. "The teachers don't have much choice with what they can do in their one hour and a lot of classes are just lectures," says Poddar.
Online school has also negatively impacted many students' mental health. Besides the absence of socialization, students are unable to access the resources they need: for instance, counseling services. In a recent survey conducted in South California by EdSource, 22% of the surveyed students who needed mental health services before now didn't have access to those services.n additional 32% also stated that their mental health needs have increased since the start of online school and quarantine. Junior Aiesha Chaudhary attests to her mental health, noting that she couldn't get help when she needed it. "The biggest problem is it's a lot harder to get help when you need it." Chaudhray says. She also emphasizes how her friends helped maintain her mental health state too. "I didn't realize how much I benefited from being able to sit next to people in a class," she says.
Teachers and staff are also having trouble with easily accessing online school. A big part of online school is knowing how to access and use specific technology, such as Zoom or Canvas, but not all teachers are familiar with it. Additionally, technology is unreliable as English teacher Leigh Tinsley agrees. "The biggest challenge is just putting things online." Tinsley says. "I feel like everything with technology takes a long time, takes a lot longer than going to a copy machine and making photocopies of stuff."
As Blair’s Academies Coordinator, Beth Sanchez guides all the teachers that lead the academies and supports the teachers in getting information out to students. She also provides resources to the teachers and coordinates capstone projects. "It [online school] has made outreach very difficult, we've had to really think outside the box," says Sanchez. "How do we reach middle schoolers or Blair students and let them know how to get involved in the academies?"
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and the Board of Education needs to address these problems, for students and staff. Mental health is a serious issue and there need to be more resources for students. Online school was not an easy adjustment, but with some solutions, we can all start to see change in our quarantine lifestyles.
As for solutions, some things that could be done to improve virtual learning would concern motivation and class participation. Many teachers teach lecture-style with Zoom classes rather than giving students time to discuss topics and learn from one another. Giving out breakout room time has proved helpful for students to learn about their classmates and listen to new perspectives. Another thing that can be done is increasing leniency on deadlines. As students struggle with their mental health and respective workloads, it's important to keep in mind that they're doing the best they can considering the situation they're in.
Despite its shortcomings, online school has some positive impacts. For one, students are getting more sleep since the start time of school is now 9 a.m. compared to the previous 7:45 a.m. for high schoolers. Sophomore Julia Maynard agrees that the Wednesdays were a great idea because it provides a short break and gives an opportunity for educational support. "I have a choice to go see my teachers or the choice to kind of take the day off to do homework," explains Maynard. Poddar also explored a further positive of online school, saying, "It [online school] saves me time on my commute and I don't have to wake up super early."
Right now, there are hopes to go back to in-person school in 2021 if our county can meet certain guidelines. Until then, students and staff are doing their best to adapt to virtual learning and to come up with solutions as needed. For more information about in-person school, please visit MCPS's return plan for in-person school.
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