Since the start of quarantine, I have been one of the few students at Gateway who opted out of the hybrid learning program and chose to stay virtual for the entire school year. The online-only experience was surreal and complicated. I encountered a variety of challenges, namely technical difficulties.
In the Spring of 2020, when everything shut down and schools became virtual, I had no idea how to navigate Google Classroom. I was completely stuck, and the help I was receiving wasn’t satisfactory. I tried to log on every day, but technology had other plans for me. If the digital complications weren’t difficult enough, the uncomfortable environment and life stressors definitely were. Stuck in a haze of defeat and utter confusion, I felt as if I had no choice but to give up. For the rest of the school year, I would remain absent.
September 2020 was much different. At first, just like last year, I had issues accessing Google Classroom. Particularly, I struggled with remaining connected to wifi, getting my computer to load, screen headaches, and my own family and friends demanding my attention when I was in the middle of class. As I spent more time with virtual learning, I found it was way too easy to skip class or sleep in. I was haunted by my longing to interact with another human being. It was all I could think about, other than how sad it is that my peers have been deprived of an ideal high school experience. We will never get to have a real prom, senior picnic, homecoming, or football game. It’s depressing to think about how much we’re missing out on. But it’s better to suffer in these ways than potentially infect another person with Covid-19 or risk becoming infected myself.
Things got a little better. Online school wasn’t all terrible. Just like all things in life, it’s not entirely good nor is it entirely bad. I found some of the unique features in virtual learning to be a valuable tool in my education. For instance, the ability to turn my microphone and video on and off as I pleased. Whenever I was having some mental health issues, I could easily save myself the awkwardness of having to dig out a flash-pass and visit the counsellors by turning off my video and microphone at home. It was also convenient since I had immediate access to my coping mechanisms.
Since I started virtual school, I had a lot more free time to do things that I like to do, such as spending my lunches taking walks or cleaning. I was also able to multitask with my schoolwork, which was extremely satisfying for me. Another virtual feature that was resourceful for me was being able to rewatch recordings of my classes and having access to my work at all times. This made it easier for me to keep track of my assignments and work on them throughout my evening whenever I had the time and energy to do so.
Overall, virtual learning was initially confusing and depressing, but I got used to it. It’s something that I think we have to gotten used to as we try to overcome Covid-19. The more we continue to follow the proper CDC and health department guidelines and get vaccinated, the faster we can return to a semi-normal world.