Over the past year, the terms “at-home” and “in-person” have become a part of our daily vocabulary. For most students, switching between the two learning styles felt like jumping in between worlds. On one day, you could be at school the same way you were in 2019. The next day, you were learning from your computer; however, some students made their “at-home” days everyday. In their case, the switch between learning at home to learning in-person was much more difficult.
The last completely “normal” school year that Claire Cummings, a sophomore, had was in 7th grade. Halfway through her eighth grade year, the world shut down. It wasn’t until the 2021-2022 school year that Cummings returned to school full time. In-person learning has been an adjustment for her because of the amount of time she spent learning from home. For students who stayed home for so long, coming back to school was scary.
“With people in the hallways, I felt crowded,” Cummings said. “At home it was just me and my family. [At Woodland,] there are always people crowding around all of the time in such a confined space, and I felt a little intimidated.”
Woodland has increased the precautions it takes since the start of coronavirus, which helps students feel more comfortable readjusting to an in-person schedule. Door handles are sanitized frequently throughout the day, desks are arranged at least three feet apart from each other, and custodial staff clean during and after school every day.
The precautions taken at Woodland have helped students feel more comfortable coming back, however, they can’t stop everything, including incorrectly worn masks.
“The administration is doing the best they can. There are some things they can’t see all the time, and that’s not their fault,” said Cummings.
In 2020, researchers concluded that long term changes to a student’s learning environment can hurt them in the future.
“Investments in children made at younger ages increase the efficiency of investments made at older ages,” according to economists Santiago Pinto and John Bailey Jones, who conducted a study that analyzed the effects that long-term distance learning has on children and teenagers. They found that for every ten days that a student wasn’t learning in person, test scores decreased by one percent. It was also the state of the world in 2020 that led to struggles in learning.
“Events outside of the school environment that take place during recessions also have an adverse effect on educational outcomes,” as Pinto and Jones mentioned in their study.
Some full-distance learners were isolated from their peers and teachers at school. In many cases, it’s easy to feel forgotten when you’re the only one learning online.
“I felt that sometimes my teachers didn’t pay as much attention to me,” Cummings said.
Distance learning wasn’t any easier for teachers, who had to come into school everyday. All teachers at Woodland can relate to the microphone and screen-sharing problems that came up throughout the year. Everyone also had to become familiar with new technology and become their own tech support on full-distance days.
This year, most students are excited about coming back to a traditional style of learning. Cummings agreed that there are both positive and negative aspects to coming back. While she was able to participate in some clubs her freshman year, she’s looking forward to joining more this year, like the Pep Band.
“Last year, I did drama, but I was just from home. With the pep band, I like being able to play in my free time and being in a community,” says Cummings.
There are a few things that will be missed about distance-learning. Many of Woodland’s students enjoyed being able to sleep in and have extra half-days.
“I liked that I had more freedom,” said Cummings. “I didn’t have to worry about deadlines and being on time as much because I just woke up and turned on my computer. And when I went to lunch, I could just make something in the comfort of my own home.”
As this school year progresses, Woodland’s students are still adjusting to the in-person schedule, and the best way to adjust to give it time.