Distance Learning: The Intricacies of the Home Front

Caroline Connolly, Web Editor; Reporter

With the rapid development of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the globe have closed for varying lengths of time. Distance learning was swiftly established as a solution to the disconnect, the transition being practically or theoretically smooth, with consideration towards long-standing laptop programs and direct lines of communication between families, administration, and teachers. The results vary.

Senior Jordon Brooks struggles to find motivation in distance learning and finds himself completing fewer assignments than he did before the lockdown.

“Teachers used to motivate me to get work done in classes I wasn’t interested in,” said Brooks. “Now that’s gone and it’s harder to be motivated to complete classes I don’t need to graduate.”

Additionally, the independent nature of remote learning is incompatible with the traditional classroom environment, making more difficult material particularly frustrating.

“I can’t get the in-person help necessary to aid my comprehension and I won’t be prepared for the final,” said Brooks.

Like many of his peers, Brooks is currently working, creating potential conflicts with conference calls, scheduled quizzes, or other time sensitive assignments.

“I am working at Menards,” said Brooks. “It just means that I have to make sure and complete my time-sensitive assignments before three.”

Remote learning has provided a more condensed day-to-day education.

“In a sense, it’s easier because there are more accessible resources,” said Brooks. “Teachers have done a great job communicating and getting student feedback.”

Social distancing has taken a toll on the mental health of students, unable to get the daily social interactions they’re accustomed to.

“I’m very social and I think at this point my dog might be getting annoyed with how much I talk to her,” said Brooks.

On the lighter side, many students have found themselves with a lot more free time.

“I’m spending more time home practicing my hobbies and less time being sleep deprived,” said Brooks.

Brandi James is the mother of two highschool students and a kindergartener. Like many parents of students now being educated at home, she is not a teacher.

“It’s a lot that I haven’t prepared for,” said James. “It just kind of fell on our laps all of a sudden.”

The dramatic range in ages has provided a unique remote-learning experience in the James household.

“As a parent, you are not as involved in (a highschool student’s) day to day stuff as you are with a five-year-old in kindergarten,” said James.

Parents are now responsible for the care and education of their younger children and the accountability of their teens, who are now without a teacher to motivate them to complete their work. It’s a fairly daunting task.

“I never wanted to homeschool,” said James. “I didn’t realize how much there was to do.”

James has implemented a loose schedule involving regular work-time in the morning and a check-in during the afternoon, but procrastination is more prominent than ever.

“It’s a little bit harder to have such rigid structure when you’re at home, everybody’s at home, and you have nothing but time.”

While task completion is important, James is mindful of the stress and anxiety that comes with a dramatic shift in a child’s routine.

“There can be a lot of anxiety when you’re at home, and you know that you’re not really able to go anywhere or do anything,” said James. “It’s okay if the kids need a break too. The fact is: we are all in this together. We are all together all the time.”

Along with a dramatic change in environment, many parents have found themselves without a job given the massive closure of non-necessary businesses.

“On top of us having to now having to be the teacher… some people are on furlough so there’s that added stress of not having a paycheck,” said James.

All of these rising tensions create potential conflicts within families facing problems no one has the answer for. 

“We need to also keep in mind that this was not a situation anyone was prepared for,” said James. “We need to allow ourselves grace and patience.”

 

Student Profile

Junior Hannah Tristan, like many teens, is faced with the new dynamic of quarantined online schooling. With no cafes or libraries to provide a productive environment, students are challenged with completing their work in a potentially chaotic household. Tristan is the oldest of five girls.

“We see each other much more often of course. All of my sisters and I know that we need to respect one another’s space if we see each other working, so no one usually has any trouble if they want to do their work. I think the situation has definitely taught my siblings and I how to depend on and cooperate with one another. The younger ones can’t really help me with household duties, but they do take on little things like playing with my youngest sister in my place while I’m trying to do my work,” said Tristan.

The primary adjustment is applying a sense of discipline students haven’t been forced to exercise in our education system. The self-driven nature of remote learning is a dividing feature among students. Whether a student is compatible with this aspect will have a strong effect on their academic record. 

“I think the actual workload is relatively lighter compared to what it was when we were in school, which should mean that in theory online schooling would be easier. But personally, I have difficulty self-regulating when it comes to doing work, which makes it difficult – but I understand that it’s totally the result of my own behavior. On top of that, daily schedules at home aren’t exactly predictable, so the flow of work and household duties isn’t usually a solid one,” said Tristan.

On top of possessing a level of self discipline, students with responsibilities and sustained commitments in the lockdown must balance their school work with an established or fluid schedule. Some students are continuing to work, oftentimes with a dramatic increase in hours. Others may now be responsible for the care of their siblings. Some with underlying health conditions that put them at risk are under strict quarantine.

“For the most part, personal matters take precedence, especially because I’ve got some little sisters I have to take care of at home, but I never neglect my schoolwork completely. It’s just a matter of what’s more urgent or important that day. I’ve tried to make myself a schedule, but it’s never really worked out the way I wanted it to; like I said, daily schedules at home are pretty unpredictable,” said Tristan.

Students were braced for impact with approaching finals and exams, leaving for break early March only to see the situation accelerate in severity. Expectations crumbled completely, replaced with a global standstill and a looming sense of anxiety.

“I thought I’d go back to school each day, see the friends and teachers I love so dearly, sit in my classes to be taught and prepared for upcoming class tests and AP exams, and carry on just like every other school year. But as of now, all of that is on hold, for what seems like an uncertain amount of time. I was expecting fourth quarter to just be a longer and more hectic sequel to third quarter, but instead it took a completely different turn.”

Advanced Placement exams have made dramatic adjustments, allowing students to take the exam open-note from home. While this gives students the opportunity to still receive college credit, expectations for the test and review methods for teachers have gone from calculated systems to shots in the dark.

“I’m not exactly a fan of the AP tests being completely FRQ-based, just because I feel like a multiple choice test would be a more holistic assessment of what a student knows. With multiple choice, you can write up questions for topics across the board, but FRQs are generally specific towards one aspect of content… I believe College Board did its best with what it had and in the limited time it had. It’s just hard for students and teachers alike to adapt to a completely new test format – especially since preparation for the traditional exam format has been going on throughout the entire year,” said Tristan.

During such an uncertain period, Tristan maintains a stoic mindset.

“Trust the process. Everyone’s doing their best with the situation at hand, but a lot of it is out of our control. Focus on the things that are actually in your hands, and try not to stress about the things that aren’t. Things are tough, and everything seems to be up in the air right now, but things will calm down eventually,” said Tristan.

Even remotely, resources are available for students that are struggling.

“Reach out if you need help – whether it’s academic or personal. The teachers, counselors and staff at the school are extremely willing to help you if you’re in a rough spot, as long as you let them know… They care, and they will do anything to help you. Just reach out to them,” said Tristan.

Though electronic means of communication don’t have the same effect as in-person interaction, maintaining personal relationships and a sense of community is essential to persevere through this difficult time.

“I miss my friends and teachers loads; even with FaceTime and conference calls, it’s not the same. Being able to connect with everyone has always been my favorite part about school, so having that taken away is just extremely sad. I know that once we go back to school, I’ll be hugging my friends and teachers tighter than ever before. This lockdown has really made me realize how much I need to connect with others, and it’s taught me more than anything to make sure I don’t take my relationships with others for granted… Let the people you love know you love them! These are tough times, and everyone could use a little appreciation and love, especially since we’re not there to give it to one another in person. We’ll see one another soon enough, but until then, shoot your loved ones a text, an email, a letter,” said Tristan. “We keep our distance today so that we can hold each other closer tomorrow!”