As we near the end of the 2020-2021 year, the first ever majority-online school year in history, we’ve come to many conclusions. How we must adjust to an online environment, how we miss being in school, and most importantly, how much online school can suck. As a junior at Quince Orchard who has been completely virtual for the duration of her school year, I feel the need to indulge mine and my peer’s experiences with the MCPS community.

Junior year has been labeled as one of the most difficult years a student can experience before reaching the college level. But this year’s juniors are not getting the typical run-through. Even after a year, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold a firm hand around our society. Schools everywhere have been forced to lock their doors and demand students learn from their homes — this has been proven to be both beneficial and detrimental. Without the risk of school days being super-spreader events, what could possibly affect students negatively?

“I think online learning has had a pretty big impact on my mental [well]being because you get less hands-on help from the teachers,” says junior Emma Lee Freeman. “You just feel more alone in the whole process.”

Although Quince Orchard has partially opened its doors to select students who chose to attend in-person learning, the majority of the school population remains online. It can be difficult to connect with teachers and peers when the only interaction you have is through a chat or brief conversations in breakout rooms.

In certain circumstances, I could have between 3 or 10 assignments due on the same day, not to mention the quizzes I am required to complete at the end of every week. This, on top of home life and extracurricular activities, can make life extremely stressful. After a while, work just seems to stack up, until you’re stuck playing an endless game of catch-up for the rest of the quarter.

“It makes students stressed when assignments pile up and they have a list of overdue items, compared to in-person school where teachers can be empathetic, help kids through their work and life’s obstacles as well,” Freeman adds.

According to The Beacon, in a study conducted in June of 2020, 75% of college students reported feeling more anxious or stressed due to online learning.

The feeling of stress and loss of motivation doesn’t just go one way — teachers are also on the receiving end.

“I have attempted to make connections and I have invited interaction through emotion boards, but I feel there are many missed opportunities with the current online learning,” says Spanish teacher Charlene Gonzalez. “Students can hide and refrain from speaking and communicating in the chat.”

Not only is it extremely difficult to connect with teachers, it can be just as hard to understand students as well. With both sides experiencing a lack of connection, online learning was bound to be difficult in one way or another — but there are ways we could face our dilemma.

Talk with your teachers! It won’t hurt to unmute yourself in class once in a while. But the same can be said for teachers; listen to your students and try to understand what they may be going through. A student you think to be lazy may just be busy fighting their own battles.

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