By Natalie Leung
No More Mid-Day Pancakes
At exactly 6:30 a.m., I hear the excruciating sound of my alarm clock, signaling the ever so dreaded time of the day; when I have to get ready for school. Something about it is still quite unsettling, as it’s been almost half a year since I’ve done so. Nevertheless, the morning rush of a school day never seems to disappoint, as I somehow always find myself rushing out the door, grabbing whatever granola bar I can find that morning — quite a contrast to the mid-day homemade pancakes I’ve grown accustomed to waking up to.
Another strange aspect of this year is that instead of taking the bus to and from school, my parents have opted to drive me, in order to take precautions against the virus. As I look out the window of the car, I watch as the familiar streets and houses pass by, until all of a sudden I arrive at the school, being dropped off to walk towards the athletic entrance; another change made this year. I throw my mask on and head through the door, where there’s a line of students waiting to get their temperature taken. When it’s my turn, I step on the two dots that say, “Stand here!” and turn to my left to face the newly installed device that takes my temperature.
Once I’m cleared to go, I head straight to my first block class, as we’re not allowed to hang around the hallways anymore in order to avoid large groups of people. Along the way, I notice the floors have stickers and arrows, encouraging students to walk to the right of the halls at all times. Arriving at my phys. Ed. class, I glance up to the five kids in the sophomore section sitting on X’s placed six feet apart on the bleachers. It takes about twice as long as usual to take attendance, as the teachers call out each student’s name one by one. Meanwhile, the kids in the building sit there, waiting for class to finally begin. Since there aren’t many students in school, all grades are combined for gym, and we’re given some options: golf, badminton, or racquetball. But most of us decide to continuously lap around the track.
The New Normal
Study hall is extremely different from the chatty lower dining hall where students piled together at the tables laughing and doing homework, in which we’re used to. Instead, the LDH is filled with rows of circular tables, one person sitting silently at each. All students and staff are wearing a mask, and by now it has become the new normal. Although it may be a little uncomfortable at times, everyone complies and there isn’t any fuss over it. Many hybrid students have several classes which are held in the theater because their teachers, for health or family-related reasons, are working virtually for now. I have journalism in the theatre, where the dim lighting reveals teacher supervisors working on the stage, overlooking rows of students spaced six seats away from each other. There are many challenges of working in the theatre, including the poor network connection which causes me to often disconnect from the zoom call and miss parts of class.
Zooming Through School
Each of my in-person classes is identical to the next; I walk into class, greet the teacher, and immediately log into the zoom call. Due to the unexpected majority of the students in WWP being virtual, it is difficult for teachers to engage with the 2-5 students they have in person. Although hybrid students went back to school for normality, because we are required to log into the zoom call even when in person, class is much more impersonal than I expected it would be. Much of my decision to go to school in-person was in hopes that I would be able to learn better by being able to see things face-to-face, but the reality of the hybrid model has been a bit disappointing. It is obvious that the district has worked tirelessly to draft a plan to keep us all safe, but as a hybrid student, I was unaware that coming into school would look virtual; just from the school building.
In general, being in school is a huge step towards normality and achieves the main goal of going back to school, which was to help me focus significantly throughout the day. If I was fully virtual, I think it would be a lot more difficult for me to grasp new concepts and clearly communicate with teachers. Other advantages I’ve experienced when being in school are the ability to ask teachers questions in real time, as well as developing some sort of relationship with them, even if it is not exactly the same as past years. In regards to whether hybrid or virtual is better, I think it depends on the learning style you prefer and how well you can self-manage your day.