In early May, the Fund asked a group of City Schools students to share their experience of remote learning during this time of school closures due to the COVID-19 crisis. Their responses were drafted in mid-May, prior to the mass demonstrations across the country. In our second blog post of this series, Madison Hall, a student at Bard High School Early College Baltimore, describes the transition to distance learning and shares what her last semester of senior year has been like:
There’s a lot of things that I think have made school closure look pretty unique to me. For starters, I’m class of 2020, so when I was imagining how I’d end this year I definitely didn’t think I’d be staring at my computer screen all these days. I was so excited to have senior ditch day, and go to prom, and have a farewell ceremony, and wander up and down school hallways with my friends when I didn’t have classes, just like the seniors that came before me.
Obviously, none of that is happening now. Just a few days ago, I went to my schools’ farewell online and it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it still wasn’t the same. I couldn’t see my friends, there was no point in taking pictures, and it just lacked all the celebratory enthusiasm that I’m used to at a school pep rally.
School itself has been the easiest part, once I heard from all my teachers. We were already using Google Classroom, so the distance-learning switch wasn’t as big a leap for us as some other schools. I was pretty independent in most of my classes anyway, so it wasn’t too bad. I will say, doing math was so much harder. I knew it would be hard doing calculus spring semester, but doing it from home? We didn’t have classes as frequently and much of the time was spent figuring out technical issues instead of learning content. If my teacher hadn’t made herself available 24/7, I might not have passed the last quarter.
There are a lot of good things about distance learning for me; I can sleep in later, I can order food to my house (something I couldn’t do at school), and as an introvert, I just don’t have to deal with all the stressors of talking in class. But there’s a lot of hard things about it, too. For example, my whole family of seven is home at all hours of the day, including my new 8-month-old sister, so it’s super noisy all the time, and it’s pretty hard to find a quiet place to work. It was so hard to get any work done because there were distractions everywhere. And being home meant less discipline to get the work done. My parents were helping my younger siblings out most of the time, so no one was telling me to go to class, I just had a bunch of assignments that I planned on getting done at some point before they were due.
On top of schoolwork and figuring out how life would go on during COVID-19, I was quickly nearing the May 15th date most seniors look forward to. Decision day was coming up and with everything that was going on, I hadn’t thought about the future in a long time. I feel like it’s also relevant to mention my top choice was NYU, located in a COVID hotspot and on the pricier side. Not to mention most scholarships closed because of the pandemic, making it harder to get the money I needed.
This pandemic made a lot of hard decisions even harder, and it affected people in many different ways. I think it’s easy to kind of discount students right now because for a lot of adults it may seem like we were granted a vacation, which is hardly the truth. While this generation may be regarded as always having a cellphone in hand, many kids didn’t have the technology to continue school once physical buildings were closed. It was by pure coincidence that I hadn’t returned my school-issued computer, but if I had, I probably would have had an even harder time these few months.
So, the one thing I think everyone should know is that the pandemic is having real effects on students, and this isn’t just some break for us. Just like everyone else, we’re experiencing things out of our control which is scary and hard.