Overcoming Online School Challenges

 As an eighth-grader I was looking forward to high school. Usually eighth-grade discussions are around what we expect high school to be. But instead, we were talking about how COVID had been spreading across the globe. 

Nobody thought too much of it at the time. When the final bell rang on March 13, 2020, I headed home, not knowing it would be a year and a half before I would return to school in person. 

In middle school I was a straight-A student. In the middle of my freshman year, which was all online, five of my midterm grades were Fs. However, this wasn’t a problem specific to me: Reuters reported that in Clark County, Nevada, one of the nation’s largest school districts, 13 percent of grades were Fs in 2020, compared to just 6 percent the year before. 

I couldn’t imagine what the impact would be for smaller, or rural, districts across the country. Some people did not have access to computers or to the internet. Teachers couldn’t find them, I couldn’t find them — it felt as if they had dropped off the face of the earth. This highlights the divide between the lower and middle/upper class. Some simply lacked the resources not only to succeed, but to participate in online school. 

This online model of learning just wasn’t working. Teachers were trying their best, reaching out to help and offering office hours, but no matter what, I couldn’t find the motivation to get my work done. Part of that was the lack of social interaction. 

For example, a huge place for social interaction at school was lunch. Not only was it a time for me to have fun with my friends, but some students were getting their only meal of the day. With online school, I wondered how they were getting fed. 

There was so much I was missing out on. When everything is typed, it’s difficult to convey emotions. Interactions with your classmates, if any, feel forced. The closest I got to talking with my peers was a half-silent Zoom breakout room with everybody’s cameras turned off. Nothing compares to face-to-face conversation. As an extroverted person, this was difficult for me. I’d never expected to go for more than a week without leaving my house or seeing my friends. Now with school back in person, I have discovered a new appreciation for school as I get to see my friends, interact in class and learn new material. 

With the pandemic ongoing, 

I understand that offering online school is a necessity. However, nothing can truly replicate in-person learning. Moving forward, 

I hope that nobody has to go through the ups and downs of online school again. Although it is out of our control, I hope that schools can continue to stay in person and keep allowing students to make the most of their education. 

ThreeSixty Fall News Team students wrote op-ed stories, then turned them into digital essays, inspired by the #360YouthVoiceChallenge, which is inspired by youth.