High school hiatus: students reflect on a virtual year

Leah Carrier

“Learning” is definitely a word that one could use to describe the past year and a half. We’ve learned that the world is in even more dire straits than ever before. We’ve learned how to survive six feet apart from one another and have adapted to an increasingly virtual world.

But in terms of education—or the conventional meaning of it, at least—online school may have taken a blow for some students. 

“Getting a good grade was easy,” said junior Empress Campbell upon reflecting on the past school year. “[But] it was hard to retain any information. [Assignments] boosted my GPA, but decreased my intelligence.”

Campbell explained that the temptation to look up answers online was too strong given the accessibility and convenience of Google. And as morale and motivation were already suffering from isolation and too much screen time, this was not surprising.

“I already stare at my phone,” Campbell said. “Star[ing] at a computer for school just makes it so much worse, and it [made] me not want to listen to the teacher because they [were] just a little blob [on a screen].”

When asked to estimate the percentage of content learning she accomplished virtually compared to an in-person year, Campbell guessed around 50 percent. 

Sylvie Alexander, a current senior, said, “I think I learned like 75 percent, maybe a little more.”

“For some things I definitely learned way more than I would normally,” Alexander elaborated, citing her AP Environmental Science, AP US History, and math classes. “But some classes, [not so much].”

What made the difference for Alexander was structured office hours and being able to ask more questions. “I think for some teachers, there was a lot less pressure to fill the 83 minutes. They could teach more in-depth one day and maybe a little lighter the other, and I think that really helped them with how they were teaching.”

While Alexander liked the 4×4 schedule because she felt it would help prepare her for college, both she and Campbell expressed discontent with taking AP classes during the first semester, months before the actual AP exam.

Unsurprisingly, Alexander and Campbell both noted that classes that might typically be more experiential in-person were not as successful online. 

“The [more] physical stuff we did, like labs, I couldn’t remember any of it,” Campbell recalled. 

Alas, a light shines at the end of this very long, dark tunnel. Wilson’s previously deserted building is quickly returning to its beautiful, bustling, chaotic self.

While the hallways take 20 minutes to walk down, it’s nice to be able to say hi to friends and see each other “mask-to-mask”. Academic content aside, we did learn to appreciate one important lesson: in the words of Campbell, being at school is “just so freakin’ fun.” •