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So ... School Has Started?

My first week of school experience
school empty
Most students will not be returning to school in person Monday, in a last-minute city decision. Photo: Pexels.

Yes, it's officially been a week since school started, virtually.

The Department of Education announced its plans to offer in-person schooling options for students earlier this month, becoming the largest school district to pursue a hybrid model. Other major school districts such as Chicago, have opted to go completely remote. So, after a week of school, what are my biggest takeaways?

Structure of Remote Learning

Remote learning has definitely become much more organized compared to the spring. Now that school administrators understand that this mode of learning will most likely continue for the entire semester, and perhaps an entire academic year, everyone is now taking it more seriously. Teachers are using Zoom for the most part in addition to Google Classroom and AP Central for Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

Many popular online resources such as Khan Academy and YouTube are being utilized much more frequently. The NYCDOE has cut class time from 45 minutes to 35 minutes, with no in-between time, which means class time is actually only 30 minutes. This definitely means shorter days, perhaps with the hopes that students spend less time on screens, which is unrealistic.

A shorter day has also caused teachers to become much pickier about their teaching material and way of teaching because they have to squeeze in the material in a shorter block of time. Some teachers, like my AP Calculus teacher, have found it extremely difficult to merge a double 45 minute period course into a single 30-minute class.

Overall, my course load has become less demanding, which was a result of not getting all the classes I've wanted to take.

How Do Other Students Feel?

From many conversations, it seems like many people are neutral. Teenagers, after all, are a highly adaptable bunch. Many of my classmates and friends have found a new routine for themselves in a remote world. There is less than 20% of students in my school returning for in-person learning, but in my school of 420, that is still a sizable amount of students.

There are definitely complaints about remote learning and the diminished productivity and motivation that comes with the blurring of personal and academic spaces.

For me and my peers, all seniors, the upending college applications process have created waves of anxiety as school administrators scramble to connect with students and provide meaningful information and support.

For me, remote learning is by far the best and only option thus far. Under the conditions that I am required to wear a mask all the time, limit interaction with anyone, and commute back and forth on public subways, I don't think that it will be conducive to my learning. Rather than feel hindered, I think a new learning routine has taught me to manage my time and stay true to myself in times where there is less accountability.

Future Plans

So far, remote learning will continue for the entire semester (till December) and later, the Department of Education will provide an option for students and families to return to the school gates. By then, I would think that much more students will be prepared to return. However, all is too early to say for now.


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