When people talk about school and learning, they often envision classrooms filled with desks, students seated, and a teacher at the head of the room writing on the board. They remember opening textbooks to find answers, raising hands to ask questions, and leaning over to whisper to fellow classmates.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has turned that view of traditional learning upside down. Schools in North Carolina have been closed since mid-March. No one is chatting in the hallway at their lockers anymore. No one is gossiping around the lunch table in the cafeteria.
Classrooms are empty.
But education has not stopped.
School districts have shifted to “remote learning” and students have had to adjust to finishing out the school year virtually in the safety of their homes. Classes are conducted online and assignments are turned in by email or other electronic methods.
Ny’Asia Kee-Daye, a senior at Northampton County High School, and Matty Grace Gilliam, a senior at Ridgecroft School, shared their “learning from home” experiences with the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald.
Having a more flexible schedule is one of the biggest things they both say they’ve had to adjust to.
“I like that I can stay up later and watch TV and do my own schedule,” explained Gilliam. “But that’s also kind of tough at the same time. Sometimes I procrastinate and get overwhelmed.”
Her assignments are different every day, so sometimes she wakes up early to complete them or chooses to get a little more extra sleep.
Kee-Daye said it’s nice that she can do the work any time of the day, though she often prefers to get it done early so she can spend more time later watching movies or doing other fun things.
“I try to do all my work in the morning. I try to do it as soon as I wake up,” said Kee-Daye about what a typical school day looks like for her now. “I like that I can do it when I want to.”
One challenge in adjusting to the new way of doing things is that they’re not face-to-face with teachers anymore.
“You don’t learn as much as you learn in a traditional classroom,” Kee-Daye pointed out, though she added that her teachers do respond quickly to any emailed questions she may have.
“Thankfully it’s not like the beginning of the school year where all you do is learn new stuff,” Gilliam said, noting that most of her schoolwork at this point in the year are reviews for things like upcoming AP (Advanced Placement) exams.
Along with not being able to interact as much with the teachers, students also lose interactions with their classmates. Kee-Daye said that, unlike some other classes, she hasn’t been taking any that do video chats. Gilliam said she’s done a few Zoom calls for class, but she mostly interacts with her classmates through group chats and other social media instead.
Since both students are seniors preparing to graduate, this has been particularly disappointing.
“It’s kind of been hard, and it’s been sad too because I don’t get to do senior traditions,” Gilliam said. “Now I’m never going to go back to that place [the school] for the same reasons.”
“I didn’t have a senior banquet. I didn’t have a prom,” Kee-Daye said, listing just a few of the things she and other seniors missed out on by having to finish the year at home.
Both admit they’re hoping they’ll be able to return to regular classroom learning in the Fall when they start their first college semesters. Gilliam will attend Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, and Kee-Daye is currently planning to attend UNC-Pembroke while she’s on the wait list for NC State.
“It’s been manageable. It just hasn’t been ideal,” said Gilliam of the learning from home experience.