Virtual School 2020/21: A Recap
This week marks the one year anniversary of my school switching to online learning. As we trickle into the “new normal”, however, my routine has changed. I now go to school in person two days and spend the rest of the week at home, schooling online. Hybrid learning brings along its own set of complications and experience, but I figured that before we dive into this new mode, I would take you on a tour through the whirlwind of my 2020 virtual learning experience.
My school officially closed its doors Friday, March 13th (Ironic, isn’t it?). Just a day before, everything had been normal. We had heard of the "Coronavirus", but it seemed about as distant as the penguins of Antarctica. Sure, a couple of people had begun wearing masks to school, but still, this virus seemed like a far away problem. Even as we were told the county closed all schools, we only treated updates as a temporary inconvenience. That Monday, the school announced that, drawing from the 12 built in snow-days, we would have two weeks off. These two weeks kicked off the realization that COVID-19 was here to stay.
Our return to school after the initial two week break was delayed once, then twice, before we eventually returned online in late April 2020. It was an absolute disaster. Our systems “dissolved into chaos” (to quote the Washington Post); the class schedule changed; and grades were eliminated, rendering almost all school work optional. Most of our classes were passed in silence, doing independent work while half the class failed to show up. The school year came to close -lacking its usual flurry of finals and standardized testing - and the county geared up for another shot at virtual education. By this time, the pandemic was in full swing, masks were mandated, and everyone carried hand sanitizer with them no matter where they were going. What we had thought was simply a temporary inconvenience had now transformed our daily lives and cancelled almost everything. Everyday the death toll rose, and morale sank lower. For once, I was not looking forward to summer, usually filled with trips and camps but this year, empty. So, the start of the school year was, contrary to previous years, an incredibly exciting event.
This new school year started off better than the last one had ended. Classes were mandatory, grades and tests were reinstated, and our teachers had had the time to figure out how to teach virtually. Despite a few technical difficulties and a system crash in the beginning, school was mostly a smooth sail. Every few weeks, the board would announce that they were considering going back to school, only to announce that we wouldn’t. This cycle continued until February 2021, when finally, with a great deal of excitement and fanfare, the county decided we would switch to hybrid learning.
Hybrid learning consists of a rotating schedule of half in person, half online learning, allowing class sizes to be reduced and less crowding in the building. Teachers -all vaccinated before going back- simultaneously teach in person and online, definitely not an easy feat! And so, on March 4, I went back to school for the first time in almost a year.
This roller coaster of a past year has taught me many things, but perhaps most importantly, the importance of being grateful for those with whom we interact on a daily basis: not just our friends and families, but also our teachers, colleagues, and neighbors. With my daily interactions at school suddenly cut off, the lack of human interaction, like many of us, had a significant effect on me. Going forward, regardless of what the new normal is, I’m grateful for the lesson in gratitude the pandemic has taught me.