By Imogen Lubin
I didn’t expect to like virtual school as much as I do. In fact, I struggled with choosing my 2020 learning model. I feared online school would present similarly to the emergency COVID-19 learning from the end of the 2019-2020 school year, in which I felt overwhelmed and isolated. While I still lack and crave some of the social interactions from a typical school environment, I find the advantages of virtual school greatly outweigh any cons.
The most notable change from a typical school year for me are my mornings. This year, I wake up around 7:30, only 10 minutes before the first block, which, I admit, Isn’t the best approach. In that time I roll out of bed, brush my teeth, and grab my laptop. With my late wakeup time and a need for only a presentable head and shoulders, I often spend my first four classes in my pajamas–a habit I’d soon like to break. Mornings at my house used to be chaotic and stressful, with everyone half asleep rushing to get out of the house. Now, they are far less dreadful; in fact, they are actually sort of serene, even enjoyable. In writing this, I think I’m going to start waking up earlier to take in the serenity, to watch the world wake up.
Virtual school makes me feel like more than just a student at HSN; It makes school feel like a part of my life, rather than my whole life. When I have free time, instead of just sitting at school, I’m able to relax or do something non-educational. For example, I can (and have) put my laundry into the wash in between the first and second blocks, move it to the dryer between second and third block, and fold it during lunch. Before, I had to take additional time out after school to do my laundry. In addition to doing housework, given the accessibility of my home kitchen and bathroom, I can easily eat, drink, or use the bathroom as needed. In the virtual space, I attend to and prioritize my basic needs far more than I did in person.
My longer chunks of free time, namely study hall and lunch, have long been my favorite times of the school day. That being said, in my entire school career, I have never enjoyed these periods as much as I do now. I much prefer being at home by myself than sitting in the loud and crowded dining halls or library doing schoolwork or generally wasting time. At home, I can do whatever I please, wherever I please. Thus far, when I don’t have homework to do or just need a break from school, I’ve used these times to take naps, lounge, play with my dogs, eat, clean my room, get dressed, shower, or even run a quick errand. And since I am already at home and, therefore, do not need to factor transportation into my lunch period, I have the full amount of time to my disposal.
Though I prefer virtual school to the alternative, I must acknowledge some of the format’s flaws. I, for one, have made online learning so comfortable for myself that sometimes I struggle to get into a working mode; getting work done takes more determination than it has in prior years, for it is beyond easy to get distracted. The chaos and vibrancy of my home pull at my focus all day every day. My dogs, Olive and Bean, barge into my room and howl at least once a period, and I can’t help but look away from my computer screen and pet them. I hear my siblings and their school antics; my younger brother in the room next to me doing jumping jacks in gym class, my middle school aged brother yelling with his friends in a breakout room, my little sister playing her cello in orchestra. I find my mind wandering as I stare out my bedroom window, mesmerized by the falling leaves, or at the familiar trinkets on my desk. In those moments, I long to close my laptop and sit outside. Sometimes, it feels like I’m watching some sort of show on Zoom, like I’m not actually there and don’t actually have to participate. And obviously, my devices are at my disposal at all times. If I wanted to browse the web or go on my phone in class, I easily could. It’s all so tempting and easy to not do work, but in the end, I know it is of my best interest to pay attention and try my best in class.
I crave the ease in which school allowed me to socialize. Now, my classes are less interactive, with more lectures than before. Classwork is largely individual, and all casual social interaction is confined to breakout room timers. I miss sitting next to the same people every day in class, having little sidebars with them, even If we weren’t really friends outside of the classroom; I miss becoming close friends with someone just because I sat in close proximity to them in a class. I miss being able to walk up to the teacher’s desk to ask a question, instead of having to ask it in front of the whole class–private chat just doesn’t feel the same! I worry my connection with my teachers will be weaker than it’s been in previous years, for the lack of casual social interaction with them as well. I miss saying hi to my old teachers, catching up with them in between classes. I miss passing by my friends in the hallways, shooting over a funny glance, and chuckling quietly to myself at the interaction. I miss doing homework with them in the library at lunch. I have, as we all have, had to replace these interactions with planned Facetimes and masked hangouts.
I miss a lot. I am angry and disappointed that it has been seven months since my last in-person day at High School North and the virus is still surging. I am tired of sitting in my house all day. I am frustrated that it is still not safe for the whole school to be in person. I am all these things, but I am also proud of and thankful for our school’s administration and their competency, and I am grateful for all of the work my teachers put in to help me learn through this horrible time. I don’t know when, or if, I will return to High School North. What I do know, though, is that my attitude affects my success; as such, I will not give up hope and will keep pushing to try and make the most of my time as a virtual student.