It didn’t come as a shock to me that my junior year would be spent learning online. My hope was that it would be in a more organized fashion than last spring’s distance learning effort.
I am assuming that my distance learning experience was quite similar to other students in the district. Wake up, log in, homework, sleep, repeat. This degree of repetition wasn’t something that came with in-person learning, so it was very mentally taxing. As the school year went on, however, I became used to this routine, to the point where I was mindlessly going through the entirety of my school day.
My distance learning experience made me miss a lot of the social aspects of in-person learning. I went from seeing my friends and teachers every day to staring at name bubbles on my screen. While I knew that meeting online was the only safe learning format, it was still a challenge to force myself to wake up and stare at a screen for several hours at a time.
I quickly learned that in order to stay awake during class, I would have to physically leave my bed and go to a more suitable learning environment —my desk. I would often wake up one minute before class started and hop online, rather than giving my brain time to adjust. Whenever I woke up early to have breakfast and properly get ready for class, I almost always had an easier time absorbing information and staying awake. (This was very rare, though.)
I noticed that my younger siblings got up every morning and made sure to eat before class, and they seemed more awake and tuned in to their classes than I was, so I tried to do the same, but usually ended up hitting the snooze button.
A bad habit I developed during distance learning was cooking during class. On the days I didn’t wake up early to have breakfast (which was several times a week), I would find myself cooking at random times in the day, specifically during classes. From tacos during English to pancakes during math, I would plug in AirPods and listen to class while cooking.
Surprisingly, cooking didn’t distract me too much, and I always made sure to take notes whenever I heard something important. In a way, distance learning helped me become a better multi-tasker.
Something I appreciated during distance learning were the engagement efforts of my teachers. Even though 99% of kids had their cameras off (including myself), the excitement to teach projected through the screen by the teachers never really dwindled. They were thrilled to be in their element (a learning environment), something that was not reciprocated by most students, through no fault of our own.
Another positive that came out of this school year were recorded lessons. I frequently looked back on them while doing homework, which helped me understand the material a lot better.
While it did take time to adjust to distance learning, I really enjoyed being able to take charge of my education and go at a pace that worked for me. There were still required test dates, but besides that, I was free to turn in work at all hours of the day. I tend to be more productive at night, so having the flexibility to do school work at any time both increased my productivity levels and helped me gain a better understanding of the material, because I was able to concentrate.
Going from seven hours a day in person to seven hours a day on a screen was a big switch for both me and a number of my peers. Having access to different mental health resources during this time was very helpful. There is often a correlation between a student’s academic performance and their mental health. Even though there are a number of mental health resources available to students, I do wish that there had been a greater effort to make more students aware of these resources.
Distance learning has had its ups and downs but, so far, I’ve learned how to take control of my education and become a more independent learner, while also learning that it is OK to ask for help.
I chose to remain distance learning for the rest of the school year because I enjoyed both the asynchronous aspect and being able to work at a pace that is more suitable to my needs. Next year, I look forward to getting to know my teachers and being able to collaborate with other students face-to-face.
Ayooluwa Odeyinka is a junior at John Marshall High School. In her free time, she enjoys biking and listening to music.