Two months ago when school was still in session, I often heard the sentence “I want to go home” repeated during classes that seemed to go on forever. Yet now that we are staying home while still in school, my schoolmates and I seem to have had a complete change of attitude.

Almost everyone I know misses school; mostly, we miss the ease of it.

Talking to my Women in STEM club every Monday at lunch, or my table group in English..

I miss that.

For most of us it was easy to take for granted the in-person teaching or the social interaction we automatically get.

But, hunkered down in my room in semi-solitary confinement at online school, everything is different. There’s no prepping for debate with my best friend at the library while heavily caffeinated and there’s no lunchtime squabbles about why the body is moist!

There are no friends, no people to see. It’s lonely.

COVID-19 has changed the way we learn.

Now, instead of going to 701 for Chem Honors, I just log into the Zoom call and hope for the best. I text a couple friends about how to solve a problem or finish the assignment, instead of being able to check classwork with my teacher. There’s no face-to-face interaction or no explanation even, of an oddly specific aspect of molality, which is a chemistry concept that is moles of solvent over kilograms of solute – it’s a concept I still don’t understand.

I’m discovering that going to online school is astoundingly different from going to school in person.

When Los Altos schools abruptly closed, we got caught off guard by a new learning environment to which we had to swiftly adapt. Old routines changed – while we have more flexibility in our tasks, accessibility to teachers and resources limit what we can deliver.

We learn differently in virtual school. It’s a fact.

There aren’t any teachers with whiteboards, visual cues and immediate answers to our questions. We have to learn without excellent in-person discussions about why transhumance exists or why Catalonia is trying to separate from Spain.

Instead of lectures, we learn by video and staggered teacher-student interaction. Tests, labs, activities, and teaching are formatted in ways that make complex ideas hard to grasp.

Can you truly comprehend how freezing points change without seeing it for yourself in the lab? It’s really difficult to apply concepts to things you can’t even see.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that learning is easier in the classroom – and not simply because teachers, classrooms and equipment are right there.

In traditional school, we can just go up to our teachers and ask a question or concern about a lesson. Communicating with them online can be quite challenging. Emails go unnoticed and it’s often hard to spot raised hands on Zoom.

If that is tough, what about students who don’t have access to WiFi or a computer at home or students who simply learn better when taught in-person?

Remote learning becomes an impossible task. It means some of us cannot do the work and fall behind for the rest of high school. It can be debilitating for some students who are off campus..

Quarantine has even interrupted activities outside the classroom. Los Altos High School athletics has entirely closed down though people are adapting to the situation in different ways.

“There hasn’t been a lack of athletics for me—as soon as the track season ended a lot of us started training for the cross country season in the fall right away,” said Los Altos sophomore Tomo Chiens, who runs track and cross country. “I’d imagine most athletes are staying in shape. Not exercising drives a lot of people crazy.”

Not going into school is doing that too.

But is it all bad?

I’m enjoying the flexibility that remote instruction offers since at my school activities don’t necessarily have to be done during class time. Now that the whole family is home all the time, I can break my day into manageable chunks and help around the house with cooking lunch or walking Luna, my cousin’s puppy that’s staying with us during the lockdown.

Some of my friends who are more productive at night work when they please, instead of sticking to the everyday school schedule; it helps them avoid the pile-on effect of schoolwork.

But interestingly, some students with social anxiety who are afraid to speak up in class are finding it easier to speak up online and learn without the physical presence of classmates.

And we teens are sleeping longer like we’re supposed to. The Sleep Foundation says teenagers naturally fall asleep late, and rising early to start school makes us act more robotic. Since teenagers function at different hours than adults, having a flexible schedule can actually make us feel better, and improve sleeping patterns.

Two months ago no one could have imagined the quarantined world we live in.  COVID-19  has granted our wish to stay home, but it’s got many of us wanting school the way it used to be.

Yet despite this mixed bag of what online school really is, it is a necessary evil. While we may miss some aspects of school, we do have to realize that if there is any hope of online school ever ending , we have to keep staying home.

So stay at home, kids, and also stay in school.

Kaavya Butaney is a sophomore at Los Altos High School in Los Altos, CA. She writes for her school newspaper, The Talon and loves speech and debate and choir. Kaavya is an intern at India Currents.

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