Since the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year came to a close last month, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.
I’m a high school senior at the Bryn Mawr School. Going into the academic year, I knew it would be a strange one. Rather than being in classrooms, I would log onto class online from the comfort of my bedroom. I traded my usual school uniform for sweatpants, and I did not pick up a backpack all semester long.
This was certainly not how I pictured my senior year to be.
In all honesty, I was not too optimistic going into the school year this fall. I worried that I would miss out on all of the traditions of senior year, that I would not take away as much as I would have wanted from my classes, and that everything would always feel just slightly off-kilter.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by my overall experience. I found myself learning just as much virtually as I would in-person, and I was interacting with my classmates regularly despite the remote environment.
That is not to say I found remote learning to be a perfect substitute for in-person learning. It can be difficult to transition mentally from class to class without the physical movement of one classroom to another. Additionally, typical tech-glitches and video-chat lags can lead to more class time spent dealing with technology issues rather than actual learning.
But one factor of my more positive experience might be that most of my classes are entirely virtual. Out of my five teachers in the first semester, four were teaching remotely. So every student in those four classes would attend the class via video-chat.
In the one class where this was not the case, students opting to attend school in-person would be in the classroom with the teacher, while the virtual students were on a video-chat projected at the front of the classroom. This can make class discussions and group-work particularly challenging as it is often hard to hear those in the classroom from my computer speakers.
However, this did not have a huge impact on my virtual school experience, as it only was the case for one of my classes. Students who have multiple classes structured like that had a less positive experience than I did.
Lucie Boucher, another high school senior at the Bryn Mawr School, had only one of her five teachers teaching from home, making her experience very different than mine. Additionally, she also did some school days in-person and participated in some in-person athletics, while I stayed virtual all semester.
“I kind of expected it to be more controlled, like going back, such that it would seem more normal and we would have a lot of people back on campus,” says Lucie. “But I don’t think [going back to school] met the expectations.”
She had hoped that when she went back to campus, it would be like any normal school year but with alterations and accommodations for COVID-19. Instead, she found a seemingly empty campus, since not all students opted to return to school in person, and classes that were less controlled than a typical school year.
Overall, students’ experiences have differed vastly, depending on each person’s individual schedule and choice to be in-person or virtual. But all students, regardless of individual circumstances, have experienced a semester unlike any before.
As the second semester approaches, I look forward to seeing how schools will adapt to the constantly changing situation that is COVID-19, and hope to have an exciting (albeit unusual) end to my high school experience.
A Pikesville resident and graduate of the Krieger Schechter Day School, Gillian Blum is a senior at the Bryn Mawr School. She is Jmore’s editorial intern.
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