A freshman’s perspective on online learning


With no in-person orientation, some Huron freshman have never been around the school.

Aubrey Velez, Guest Writer


Over the past eight months, everyone has had to adapt their lives. School and work closed, the world went into lockdown and life shifted into unknown territory. In the beginning, it was a flood of trendy dances, Netflix’s Tiger King and many variations of iced coffee. But once the initial high of a break from school wore off, I realized as a freshman I  would have to make the transition into high school in a very strange and uncomfortable way, which is what it turned out to be. 

I don’t think anyone imagined starting their high school career while sitting at home on a laptop. The year started off with the usual icebreakers and the unusual introductions to names but not faces, which pretty much set the tone for the next few months. While one of the expected comforts of switching to high school was getting to do it along with friends, social interaction is very limited nowadays.

 The most social interaction students get is staring at black screens and the occasional awkward breakout room. It also doesn’t seem to help that while there is a break in between classes, there’s no real appropriate time for students to simply have a conversation. There’s no chance to get to know anybody, so when we do finally go back to school, we won’t be familiar with any of the people or even the school itself.

While this isn’t ideal, it can be said that this year is an improvement from how we ended things last school year. Last year was a rush of last minute slide shows and unfamiliar block schedules. There was no synchronous learning and lessons came in the form of posts in Google Classroom based on a pass/fail system. This year Ann Arbor Public Schools leaned towards a more structured set up with a new platform called Schoology and grades were returned to the familiar letter system. 

Though we now have a more structured system, focusing in an environment like this can prove to be very difficult. For me, and I’m willing to bet many other students are in the same boat, I am in my own space surrounded by my own things. It’s not a learning environment. It’s tempting to sit on my bed and crack open one of the many books on my shelf instead of paying attention to the class that I’m in. It’s uncomfortable to turn your camera on, to find a suitable place to get ready to learn, and there’s an ever present feeling of frustration for when things go wrong. It’s the same, it’s distracting and frankly, repetitive. 

There’s an unspoken pressure to perform the same as you would in-person, but with unstable communication and less personal resources. This isn’t to dismiss the hard work teachers have put into adapting our learning. It’s clear that they have worked to the best of their abilities to help us with whatever tech or informational issue comes along. But, it no longer feels like I’m learning or absorbing information. I take in what I need, fill out whatever assignment or test is given and it immediately leaves my head. No matter how much focus or effort is put into the work, it doesn’t have the same effect. 

But from conversations with peers and personal experience, it’s clear that students need support to fall back on. There needs to be room to converse with peers and teachers and get a deeper understanding of the learning rather than just having something in by 11:59 p.m. There needs to be a space for the days where technology is difficult and subjects are harder to grasp through zoom, but also to have students engage and work together to make this experience better for everyone. That doesn’t have to mean turning your camera on for every class or giving long-winded answers to each question, but participation and feedback is key right now. 

Student’s accountability and motivation is important in any learning space, but right now teachers and students need to find an understanding of the struggles one another is facing. This is a time that is stressful and drains any and all energy you have. Mental health can’t be something that is expected to be intact right now, especially for students. Knowing from personal experience, everyone needs some leniency and being pressured to perform at your best is tiresome and sets goals that not everyone can meet. 

Yes, our priorities are on being  healthy and safe, but successfully gaining an education while working through a pandemic is going to continue to be a challenge that we need to constantly adapt to. This is something that will take time and understanding and meeting one another halfway, but we can all help to make it a little bit easier. 

Teachers, the pressure’s already on for students, yes they need to do the work and this isn’t an excuse for them to slack off, but every situation is different. It cannot be expected that things will go as smoothly as they did when we were in person. Students, motivate yourself to put the work in, participate, help your peers and offer feedback to teachers and anyone else who can receive it. This won’t be fixed overnight and we don’t know when things will go back to normal. We are stuck in a situation that constantly pushes us out of our comfort zone, but at least we know we can do our best to make it better.