Letter from a Tired (Online) Student


Image created by Charlotte McManus

Dear H-F Teachers and Administration: 

This is still too much. Before the pandemic, I and many other students would show up to school in sweatpants, yawning and groggy. Every day, our schedules consisted of school, homework and extracurriculars, and we were all short on sleep. So for lots of us, what we thought would be a two-week break back in March came as a relief.

But now that everyone’s finally settled into e-learning, we’re finding it hard to cope.

It’s not to say that everything’s awful. Lots of students love to tune in from their couch, and asynchronous learning on Fridays is crucial to our success, giving us time to learn away from Google Meet lectures and to make sense of the material we’ve been bombarded with all week. While the periods are shorter, having them virtually cuts out the transition time that normally occurs during in-person learning, and the fall model of e-learning compared to that of the spring feels far more structured. 

Still, remote learning isn’t the classroom, and we can’t continue to treat it like one. There’s something very different about an in-person lecture and a virtual one: students find it much harder to interject, and engaging conversation happens far less often. Instead of putting unrealistic pressure on students to engage behind a screen, we could split the class into parts: some time for students to interact with the material, and some time for note-taking. 

Remote learning also provides a unique opportunity for each student to go at their own pace. Teachers of discussion-based classes, like English, can upload PDFs of readings with questions to point students in the right direction, and math or science teachers could post pre-recorded lessons for students to dissect as they need to. The same could be done for Google Slide presentations and supplemental readings.

Another problem that permeates online learning is a general lack of trust. Forcing students to keep their camera on is counterproductive to your presentation: more cameras equal more lag time for both teachers and students. Besides, everybody’s home situation is different, and some choosing to keep their cameras off might be far less distracting for the whole class. 

It’s also insulting to students who have kept up. The suspicion that succeeding students aren’t paying attention is far more indicative of the value of your lecture than their willingness to learn. If a student is acing your class and has done the work, is there any reason for you to believe that they aren’t paying attention in class? And if they aren’t paying attention during your lectures and still getting an A, then what are you really teaching? 

Lastly, many students are having trouble navigating the attendance policy. Some teachers require a Google Form to be filled out before class, while some assign exit slips. Some make roll calls at the beginning of class, and for some, the policy just isn’t clear. Students are marked unverified after spending an hour in class! If attendance was consistent, students could worry about schoolwork and not technicalities. 

For e-learning to be effective, educators must work to meet their students halfway in unfamiliar territory. Every aspect of our lives changed drastically in March, and like most everything, the format for education is completely flipped.

As for the stress that comes with it? I can barely tell the difference. 


H-F Students