Tag Archives: online school

Staying at Home while Staying in School

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.


Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Youth Assemble for Grassroots Education During Quarantine

In the light of school closures due to the Coronavirus, two high school seniors, Uditha Velidandla and Sarika Sriram, set up a free online program for elementary and middle schoolers through the Almaden South Asian Women’s Association

After learning about the 3-week school shutdown on Friday, March 13, Velidandla and Sriram put in more than 24 hours over the course of two days preparing lesson plans and the technology needed to go live on Monday, March 16th, the first day of the shutdown. Their main goal?

“To give parents enough time to find an adequate replacement for formalized education”

Over three days, their volunteer-run program grew from 6 students per grade to more than 50 students in each grade. In the second week now, the program includes over 400 students and 90 volunteer tutors. 

All classes are run on Zoom, an online video conferencing platform. “By using Zoom”, Sarika explained, “the social aspect of class is still present. The students and the teachers can see each other, and lessons are more interactive.”

For elementary schoolers, the program consists of lessons taught by high school student volunteers from 9 am to 3 pm. The curriculum is based on various sources, including textbooks used in local elementary schools, and state standards. “We wanted to ensure that we were keeping the kids engaged while helping them refresh concepts learned in school earlier in the year. We know from experience how easy it is to forget material over an extended break.”

The successful first week included classes such as mathematics, reading comprehension, creative writing, and also STEM-based experiments and activities, Hindustani and Carnatic music lessons, and an arts class.

Udyat building a spaghetti tower for science class.

They announced this week that they have expanded their program to include a middle school.

“There was a high level of demand for a middle school program. We are fortunate to have enough volunteers who are willing to teach the middle classes.” says Uditha. “None of this would have been possible without the help of our dedicated volunteers- they have spent countless hours with us along the way, from planning the curriculum to teaching classes and responding to questions on our behalf. Both Sarika and I are very grateful for all of our volunteers.”

They are also trying to work with the San Jose Unified School District to make their lesson plans available to children in San Jose who are unable to access e-learning.

“It is heartwarming that we have been able to contribute to the community that has given us so much. We hope to be of similar assistance to communities that do not have easy access to e-learning infrastructure. We are proud of the fact that we hit the ground running and that the program has continued into its second week”, they say. 

They have received positive feedback from parents, receiving messages and emails that are similar to this one parent’s experience: 

I’m amazed how all the kids and tutors have progressed so well, to get comfortable with the online learning concept, with order and respect, in just 4 days of classes. Today WhatsApp has been very quiet, which is awesome! Congratulations to all tutors, organizers, and students. And I must say my kid is quite eager to attend classes and loves ‘seeing’ his friends and future middle-school friends in the e-world. Thank you all.”

It has not been all smooth sailing for the two founders. They continue to spend 12 to 15 hour days bringing this service to the community. “In addition to adapting our communication styles, we have had to iron out technical issues and assist tutors in managing online classroom behavior. We have taken the help of parent volunteers to ensure that the classroom is a welcome learning environment for everyone.”  

If you are interested in learning more about the program or donating to their cause, Sriram and Velidandla encourage you to send an email to info@asawa.net, and to explore the ASAWA website.

Suchitra Patri is the founder and president of the Almaden South Asian Women’s Association. She is an accountant by profession and enjoys reading and spending time with her family in her free time.