News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Students adapt to learning at a distance

Following the March 13 shutdown of all in-school education as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Sisters School District students were able to virtually return to their studies on Monday, April 13.

While elementary school students are being taught by their parents with videos and materials provided by their teachers, the high school students have been able to have a somewhat normal school day — from the safety of their homes.

From Monday through Thursday, the students of Sisters High School take part in three-hour school days. During these days, students have their normal class periods in 30-minute video conferences.

Seniors at Sisters High School have been given their final grades and are not required to participate further in classes (although it is encouraged). For all the other students at the high school, like freshmen Ella Thorsett and Annie Cohen, their final grades have yet to be determined, and they’re still required to attend all classes.

When asked how the first week of distance learning went, both freshmen deemed it to be “definitely an adjustment.”

For other students who live in more remote areas where the internet connection isn’t great, like Pearl Gregg, a junior, the first week of distance learning was a struggle because of “technical difficulties and communication breakdowns.”

Gregg also pointed out that, “In these times, while this isn’t my first choice and I am running into my own challenges, I am a very fortunate individual in this situation.

My parents both still have jobs, I have a safe place to call home, but this is not the case for all of the students in our community.

For some school might be the safest, most supportive space they have, some don’t have a house to live in, some have violence or drugs in their household, or a variety of other negative factors that would make learning from home difficult, and that’s not the environment they deserve to have to try to learn in.

Not having the best Internet connection, while it has been frustrating, I recognize that I am the fortunate one in this situation.”

In addition to the week’s technical downsides, Gregg, whose mother is an educator, felt as if students were “putting in more effort to learn and getting less out of it” as they were missing out on the social and emotional learning that are “some of the most important things for a highschool student.”

Sam May, a junior, had similar feelings to Gregg, noting that he “greatly prefers attending the brick-and-mortar building, as not only do I think it is better for learning, there’s a culture to it.

“There’s not a culture to be had when you’re transitioning Zoom calls,” he said, referencing the passing periods in between classes at school that the video-conference classes lack.

Acknowledging the week’s downsides, virtual schooling has some upsides as well.

Gregg sees this time as an opportunity to “prepare for college and post-high school life as a result of having less resources and class time, which prompts us to learn about and adapt to work with less support than we are used to, much like the shift to life post-high school.”

Students Thorsett and Cohen felt that the first week of distance learning presented the opportunities that come along with virtual schooling overall. Thorsett says she’s “found myself with more free time, which is an opportunity to find new hobbies and get outside.”

Cohen had similar sentiments, and feels that there were many new learning techniques that come with distance learning, explaining that her “English class is watching different movies that correlate with a book we were reading.”

May also feels that distance learning has many opportunities for the future, and while he’s “not personally a huge fan of distance learning,” he said, “an interesting prospect of distance learning is the possibility of no more snow days in the future, even when we move back into normalcy. With the distance learning initiative, it’s proven that kids don’t have to come to school to learn, and so come winter, perhaps school won’t have to be ‘canceled’.”

Overall, while distance learning may have its ups and downs, it seems to be “the best adaptation we could’ve made with the given crisis,” as May said. And for many students, like Cohen, “it finally gave me something to do during the day and because we were on a schedule, it made my life more organized, which is pretty important while in quarantine.”

Even though this week was an adjustment, students are grateful to teachers, staff, and administrators for their commitment to the success of students, regardless of the chaos.

 

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