With the virtual start of the 2020-2021 school year, my high school career did not begin as expected. Instead of bustling hallways, piles of homework, and hours spent studying, I faced Zoom meetings, online tests, and the experiences of navigating distance learning. In addition to learning virtually, I have also adjusted to juggling around several extracurricular activities while following a packed schedule. In this first article of a series, I will share my perspective of what it is like to be a student in this new era of learning.
Every Tuesday at exactly 6:13 am, I wake up to a blaring alarm. (I purposely set the most annoying ringtone in order to violently jolt my brain to consciousness.) After running through the day’s to-do list and schedule in my head, I scramble downstairs for breakfast. Oftentimes, my dad and I are the only ones awake at this time. After fifty minutes of scarfing down a simple but healthy morning fare and getting dressed, I seat myself on my living room floor prepared to begin the most dreaded class of the day: physical education (PE). With PE as my E-period, I am required to wake up one hour earlier than my fellow classmates. However, my reward is that on three days of the week I am released from distance learning earlier than my peers.
A typical forty-five minute class period starts off with a tortuous tabata workout. My PE teachers are firm about camera placement in that they must be able to see me completing the workout at all times. By the end of the twenty minute exercise, I am often drenched with sweat and now alert and fully awake. After reviewing the assignments for the week and listening to class announcements, I am granted a fifteen minute break until my first period class, which starts at 8 am. I use this time to rearrange my desk area and prepare any notes or assignments I may need. For me, exercising is a great way to start my day and I am lucky that my schedule is geared towards my personal interests.
Distance learning follows a block schedule, where I attend periods E through five on Monday, but have E through third periods on Tuesdays and Thursdays and fourth and fifth periods on Wednesdays and Fridays. I do not have a sixth period in my schedule since I have an E period.
After being redirected to the waiting room and crossing my fingers that my Wifi can maintain a solid connection, I begin World History 9 Honors. This ninety minute block period usually consists of dynamic class discussions, learning new concepts, and jotting down notes. While I have always preferred a mix of learning online and from textbooks or paper materials, distance learning has provided history students with both options. I have borrowed a textbook from school and also have the option to take notes on paper. At the same time, my history teacher presents information on PowerPoints and the majority of class time is spent on a Zoom meeting.
History has always been one of my favorite subjects because of the in-depth critical thinking required to succeed. I have always found it fascinating to learn about history and our past, and I hope I can still explore various ancient civilizations through distance learning.
With the first period ending at 9:30 am and a thirty minute screen break afterwards, I use this time to catch up on homework, take a stroll around the house, and prepare for my next class of the day: math. So far, I have not taken any graded quizzes. My class has spent these past few weeks becoming familiar with the Desmos program. The majority of assignments are online because it is much easier for students and teachers to navigate than turning in handwritten work. My instructor leads us through taking notes, completing daily assignments, and sometimes separating the class into breakout rooms, where fellow peers and I collaborate to work on an activity. I find that communicating and having valuable social interactions, despite it being online, is a great way to keep connected. Math is a subject where sharing different opinions, ideas, and methods is crucial to understanding and grasping new concepts. I am grateful for the opportunities of engagement that I have in this class, which is unlike some other subjects. Most days, my classmates and I are provided with a five minute screen break about half-way through the class period. I am always thankful for this opportunity to rest my eyes and get up from my chair to walk around.
Starting at 11:30 am, I am released from the math Zoom meeting for a forty-five minute lunch break. I spend the majority of this time completing homework, studying for upcoming quizzes, and running various errands all from the comfort of my home. While I only take about fifteen minutes devouring lunch, I ensure that I am on top of all upcoming activities by completing homework as soon as possible. This allows me to focus on several extracurricular activities I juggle after school.
At 12:15 pm, I login to my last Zoom meeting of the day: chemistry. As rigorous as this course is, it is definitely the highlight of my day. There is always an upcoming quiz or test to study for as well as review and learn new information in just a few short days. On most days, my classmates and I take notes, complete a worksheet, and review a PowerPoint presentation. We utilize multiple platforms to enhance our learning, including CollegeBoard, Khan Academy, and Gizmos. As a student, chemistry requires the most work outside of class for me. I spend about an hour each night reviewing information and solving practice problems that might appear on a quiz or a test.
At 1:45 PM, the second I am released from school, I head to the Coronado Golf Course, where I practice nearly every day. Golf is possibly one of the only aspects of my life that keeps me from going insane from the amount of screen time and static learning that I am succumbing to. With fresh air, sunshine, and safe interactions with fellow players, I am able to release pent up energy and be outside for a change.
Coronado Golf Course located at 2000 Visalia Row
I end my practice session when the sun has set and head back home to delve into dinner and a short break from all the activities of the day. Every evening, I review all assignments from each class in the order of my schedule and study for upcoming quizzes. After practicing the guitar for an hour, catching up with friends, and writing the next article to be published, I am finally in bed by 10 pm.
Overall, my daily schedule has not changed much from pre-COVID, but adjusting from the five-month summer break to the vigorous activities that I am involved in now has been a challenge. Being a high schooler is not always easy, with ever-present studying and homework, but distance learning has given me slight flexibility in my schedule.