Taylor Alphonso

Staff Writer

Zohra Ahsan

Staff Writer

Wake up. Open your laptop. Close it. Go to sleep.

Sound familiar? This is the daily routine over the course of 12 hours that our entire school is faced with as we forge through the struggles that come with learning amidst COVID-19. This constant, mundane routine is one that has caused students to feel empty, alone and isolated from their friends and teachers. 

As the school year progresses, students and teachers across all grades have begun to realize that there are some unexpected obstacles that come along with virtual learning — issues that we don’t have much time to solve. Of the most obvious is a severe lack of motivation. Spending seven hours a day staring at a computer screen in the same room, then another two hours to complete school work, and possibly another three hours for extracurricular activities is bound to take a toll on all of the students at North. Having just recently left middle school, freshmen and sophomores face the new challenge of adjusting to high school standards, juniors struggle with stocking up on good grades, and seniors attempt to overcome challenges regarding colleges, all whilst learning in a virtual environment.

In an effort to pinpoint where this feeling of demotivation stems from, we talked to North students about the impact learning in a virtual environment has had on them.

Freshman Shreya Kumar has voiced her individual concerns about the beginning of her high school experience. Kumar has expressed that she feels the virtual setting has given her more flexibility during the school day. “I can eat whenever I am hungry, I can make food during lunch, I don’t have to worry about catching a bus, and I can wear comfortable clothes everyday,” she says. Kumar’s opinion is held by many — there are several things we are restricted from being able to do while attending school in person that have disappeared since our time learning from home. 

No matter how convenient these advantages are, they may also be taking away from students’ work ethics. Kumar agrees to this point, admitting that being at home has taken away her motivation and drive. “I have definitely become less productive because I am stuck in one place all day…I have noticed I tend to procrastinate more.” The increased accessibility of distractions at home has undoubtedly caused students to lose the focus they need for their schoolwork. Kumar continues to say that the physical and mental strain from sitting in front of a computer everyday makes it hard to want to get work done. “I get headaches a lot and my eyes hurt from staring at screens for a long period of time,” she said. Naturally when having these issues, students can get overwhelmed and discouraged, impacting student determination in regard to academics. 

Luckily, Kumar has discovered specific techniques that she partakes in to maintain a sense of efficiency throughout her day. Immediately after school, she takes an hour-long break where she takes the time to give her mind a rest after a long day of sitting in front of her computer. “This works for me because I get to give my mind a break before having to start my work again.” After taking this short break, Kumar sets off in making a to-do list, a practice that has helped her prioritize her assignments and responsibilities. 

Ultimately, the freshmen, new on the scene of an intimidating high school environment, have assimilated in their own way in order to prepare themselves for the years ahead. While this journey has started off with some difficulty, a modified learning environment has taught them the value of perseverance and organization. 

As these Freshmen have started to realize the struggles that come with virtual learning, other students are becoming increasingly more worried about their futures and how COVID has affected it, especially the Sophomores and Juniors. 

Sophomore Siya Jain tells us that learning from home has come with many advantages for her as well. With virtual learning, she has more time for herself and her personal life. “Giving yourself time, taking a moment to breathe, those are the really good factors of this whole situation.” 

Still, the situation comes with drawbacks. “For me, I’m more of a hands-on person. Visual learning is good, however it can be hard to understand information, especially with classes like math….if you lose focus for a moment, when you look back, it’s like ‘Oh I don’t even know where we are anymore.’” Feeling disconnected from her classes and not knowing exactly where she stands academically, Jain says, is unsettling. “Being on a screen for seven hours, not really retaining any information, and then doing homework…I don’t understand it and I’m honestly just doing it to do it.” Much like Kumar, Jain feels like this virtual setting has made her learning experience less enjoyable, while feeling unproductive at the same time. As she continues the coursework for her more challenging AP classes this year, Jain feels as if her studying is satisfying demand rather than her educational desires. “It’s like you don’t learn the information that makes the class qualitative, it’s more learning what you need to know.” 

Junior Catherine Bashore voiced that, despite an unprecedented virtual school year, she has enjoyed being able to get more sleep now with the lack of transportation to and from school, much like other students at North. She shared what her motivation has been throughout her online school experience. ”[There’s] less pressure during class because of being on Zoom,” she said. “As for self motivation… college has been primarily my motivation.” As she prepares for college search and visits, Bashore’s future education has allowed her to persevere through the difficulties she has faced during this school year as she looks forward to a senior year. 

An excitement for college, however, would soon be interrupted by the dullness of virtual learning. “Junior year is supposed to be solely [focused] on grades and other things for college,” said Catherine Bashore, a Junior at North. “So while I have more time to study, I have no motivation to really do much except get through the day’s classes… it kind of feels pointless or like you just don’t want to do it anymore.” Bashore expresses the same worries that many other Juniors have been facing at this time — the responsibility overload, from AP courses to extracurricular activities to getting ready to apply to college. 

 “I feel like a lot of it is just monotonous everyday doing the same stuff, and that during the year being able to see people everyday gave me more motivation,” Bashore admitted, realizing that her motivation for school came from the interactions that she was able to have with her friends and peers and, without that interaction, getting through school has become increasingly difficult. “

Parinita Nautiyal, currently a senior at North, has expressed the fact that her view on school has changed dramatically since the start of the pandemic. “I used to despise going to school. As a person who was always looking for more out of educational experiences, I was focusing on things I wanted to change instead of valuing what was right in front of me.” She describes her new outlook on school as more appreciative. Along with the rest of the senior class, being by herself, lacking the face-to-face interaction with teachers and the rest of her community, has made Nautiyal more aware of the strength around her. She has found herself exposed to the ways teachers go out of their way to show their love for students. “Senora Z hosted a virtual class party where we all played games/ate breakfast together…Also my choir teacher, DC, still hosts virtual weekly affirmations,” Nautiyal recounts. “I’ve learned to find genuine support through these acts of kindness.” 

To keep herself motivated and efficient through her workdays, Nautiyal tells us about her new interest in working out. “I’m not sure how long it is going to last, but it is making me feel more attentive in class.” Making exercise a daily habit has seemed to be a consistent influential trend, even on social media, where it has helped many students feel energized and organized. Nautiyal also advises others to approach their work with a positive mindset — that is, in order to have a productive balance between extracurriculars, school work, and time for oneself, it is important to maintain an active and passionate character. “I get really passionate about participating in my extracurriculars during meetings. This attitude gets a lot of work done and saves time to do my schoolwork.”  

In regard to the overall change of the educational environment, Nautiyal says the learning experience is less formal compared to previous years. She has communicated her concern for the lack of hands-on learning experience present this year. “I have less confidence that I’ll be prepared for the following year [first year of college]. It’s easier to learn when we can perform science labs or target difficult math steps with teachers in real life.” Seeing as this may affect many other students as well, Nautiyal reassures herself that as long as she stays focused and reaches out when help is needed, everything will work out in the end. 

To end, Nautiyal poses a message for her fellow Northern Knight, particularly the senior class. “I know a lot of Seniors held off on going to previous homecomings, football games, shows, and dances because we all assumed we could enjoy them during our Senior Year. So I feel like most of our grade, including me, learned to not wait for the future and instead cherish every moment.”

This year’s new learning environment has had varying impacts on the different aspects of High School North. Luckily students have found ways to adapt and deal with the struggles that come with the unprecedented time. Still, it is up to the course of the pandemic to see what the future holds for the students at North. 

Picture Source: Kinteract

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