Reflection on virtual school year

Jaismeen Kaur

The end of an academic year can be a bittersweet moment for teachers and students. This year, students and educators may get a sense of the feelings they have never felt before, including sadness, anxiety, anger and relief. These feelings can be felt as teachers and students may not be physically together for the closure of the school.

In the beginning of the school year, moving from traditional school to distance learning was extremely different, but over the months, students seemed to get used to it slowly. “My experience with virtual learning this year was decent. I honestly did like it better than usual classes. The only downside about virtual learning is that it’s hard to stay motivated,” said sophomore Denise Ann Mayor. 

Students are not the only ones who have had their lives disrupted by virtual learning. Teachers too have to adapt to the entirely new education system.

“One of the main challenges this year was getting to know the students. Teachers were so used to interacting with students in-person and with the virtual classroom, it was harder to get to know students behind their screens. I was used to having conversations with students in the classroom and getting to know them better. In the Meets and in the virtual setting this was more challenging,” said Sharon Sweet, ELL teacher.

Some students found online learning to be much more beneficial for them as a student. “Some challenges I faced this year because of virtual learning are;  time management, and not being able to chat with my friends, but those challenges gave me an opportunity to realize how I’ve grown and learned as a person. It also gave me a new perspective of things and helped me become more open-minded,” said Mayor.

Ms. Sweet also scared her happiest moment of the year of students switching to hybrid learning, “When the students returned to the building for in-person learning, it felt like the first day of school with those first-day butterflies. It was definitely an uneasy experience after being at home for almost a year but it was so rewarding. Students and interacting with them are the best part of this job and having them back in person, even in small numbers, was still a wonderful gift.”

While students and teachers were facing challenges because of virtual learning they had also found hope. Ms. Sweet siad, “I found hope and joy in the team effort of the staff and students to make this year successful despite all the challenges. It was a really hard year but there has definitely been a strong sense of unity and perseverance.”

“My students have given me hope and joy. Anytime I was feeling stressed about getting grades in or planning engaging lessons, I’d log into the meet to interact with my wonderful student even without cameras on, many students let their personality shine in the chat,” said Mrs. Christina Rajchel, math teacher at Independence. 

Mrs. Rajchel said her students have grown in different ways over the course of the years academically, “Many students flourish online with the ability to have more choice over when they do their studies” while other students really struggled with the virtual learning platform. “Students had to manage their time and studies in a unique way this year.”

Apart from experiencing so many challenges and stress with virtual learning, distance learning has also given valuable lessons to students and teachers. “The most valuable thing I learned this year is that any change I hope to accomplish starts with me. I’ve always struggled with self-love, but in all these years I had never really taken the initiative beyond superficial means to love myself,” said sophomore Sidra Sharifi. 

“I think the most valuable lesson from this year was a reminder of perseverance when things are tough. This entire year has been challenging in a variety of ways and the new virtual setting was just one of them. Every teacher/staff member and student worked to figure this new system out and troubleshoot the issues as they arrived.  We knew this was a year unlike any other and the challenges would be continuous, however, we persevered,” said Sweet. 

With a whole new learning environment and so many challenges, it was a year to remember. Teachers are very proud of what their students have accomplished over the course of the year. “Even though this year was tiring, I’m proud of what we have done with it. I’m excited to be able to get to the end of a long school year full of ups and downs.” said Rajchel. 

We all are tired and need a little break from computers. Everyone deserves a wonderful summer break to recuperate!