What It’s Like to Learn From Home? A High School View

Guest post from Madison Mauro, an Emmaus High School junior. I asked her to reflect on the experience of doing school from home over these past couple months.

At first, I was under the impression that my childhood dreams of a seemingly endless summer had, at last, come true. But, this was not the case. When the corona virus turned from a class discussion in my World History class to 24/7 news coverage, I still couldn’t help but feel a sense of detachment. For those first two weeks of quarantine, it felt as if school had taken a break for some strange bi-centennial holiday that everyone, students and teachers alike, had just forgotten. But then March turned into April and it was time to face the facts. School had to start again at some point, right? No prom. No seeing my friends cross the stage, doused in that ugly green cap and gown, for graduation. No heartfelt goodbyes to my peers or waved goodbyes to favorite teachers. Not even one last game of Kahoot. But hey, at least I’ll get to relive my passion for learning through online worksheets and Khan Academy videos. 

When the East Penn School District announced the protocols for online learning I was eager to finally have a schedule. After two weeks of living in limbo, stuck in the house, I was ready to finally apply myself again. It feels good to problem solve and work hard. However, once again, this was not the case. Maybe I was over eager, or I had a little too much time on my hands, but I finished all of my weeks worth of assignments in two days, and that was me trying to pace myself. Now nearly 70 days into quarantine and the last day of school slowly but surely approaching, I can’t help but feel that online school was simply a way to ease our minds and provide some small sense of normality in a time of uncertainty. I was fully aware that the instruction taking place in each of my classes online would be limited in comparison to the education I was receiving in school. I understood that my usual workload would be cut in half and then cut in half again. It was as if all of the most enjoyable parts of my education were, in one swift move, taken away. Now standing in its place was the most mind numbingly repetitive assignments that mirrored something a substitute teacher would have handed out so the class would quietly work at their desks. Yet the reassurance of having schoolwork was an easy way to escape the chaos of the constant news and endless unanswerable questions of what the future would hold. 

It was three days before texts started to flood my phone. Did you do the geometry homework? Or, You wanna do numbers one through five for history and I can do six to nine? It was marking period four and the days were getting sunnier with every new assignment, and it came as a great shock to my fellow classmates that I was still completing my assignments. Dude, why? Why are you still doing your school work? 

I understand that it’s a privilege that the East Penn School District is able to provide each of its students with a Chromebook. Or that I even have access to the endless resources my teachers provide to me on Google Classroom. The current learning plan issued by EPSD is adequate. In the wake of something completely unpredictable, I appreciate my English teacher leaving thoughtful comments on my college essay and even my gym teacher congratulating me on cutting down my mile time. Because God knows we all have days we want to throw our computers out the window or just shut the stupid thing down until September 1. Maybe I enjoy online school because it’s merely something to do, to help trim away the long days in quarantine, to feel a sense of accomplishment. Or maybe it’s so that when I finally walk through the doors to EHS, whenever that will be, I’ll have some sort of clue as to what’s going on in my PreCalculus 1 class. Nonetheless, in a surprising turn of events, school has, for once, helped me keep my sanity, and for that I am very grateful. Online learning isn’t perfect, but who expected it to be? 

Maddie Mauro, with dog Lucy

This is the third in a series of posts sharing student perspectives on distance learning. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my previous interviews with a 4th-grade student from Lincoln Elementary and a 7th-grade student from Eyer.

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