Stop telling me that distance learning is easy

Story by Kimberly Hsueh
Senior Staff Writer

The 2020 spring semester was an unexpected shift from in-person learning to online schooling, yet many of us managed a smooth transition. Nine months later, processing the normalization of school at home has proved to be more difficult than the initial transition. While experiencing the ongoing pandemic, political climate, and isolation, students are expected to show the same effort, attention, and efficiency, seen in pre-COVID times. Now, on top of being stressed and anxious, we are overwhelmed, distracted, and burnt-out. 

First period: AP English Literature and Composition. I drag my feet to my desk, several feet away. While distant from my peers, the unforgiving camera, perpetually bad lighting, and close-up sea of faces flood me with self-consciousness. In my quiet house, my deteriorating social skills heighten my anxiety and lack of confidence. Mustering all the energy I have for the day, I stumble on my words and speak shakily into my microphone. By 10:00 a.m., I am mentally drained. 

My next two periods are AP Calculus AB and AP Biology. A wave of exhaustion washes over me, yet these two classes require my maximum level of concentration and attention. I straighten my posture and copy down lecture notes, but the foreign lack of classroom ambience, noise, and interactions forces me to lose focus; my mind is everywhere else. When I revisit my notes later that day, I stare at the words with no recollection of the lecture. 

Confusion, frustration, and ambivalence build up as I use hours after school to relearn the material. I search for practice sheets and helpful videos, transferring the information onto written sheets of paper, but my preparation is never enough. I see a gradual drop in my grades with every test. I put 100 percent of my effort and time into studying, but my results are neither what I expect nor what I want. 

I think back to in-person school: visiting teachers for questions; checking in with counselors, past teachers, and office staff; and laughing/struggling through assignments with my friends. Collectively, those small interactions made my life vibrant and were moments I looked forward to, despite the difficulty of school. I miss the presence of my community, and most importantly, I miss the productivity, efficiency, and inspiration that my community sparked within me. 

Now, as I struggle to perform at the same level, a level that is expected by my parents, teachers, and myself, I am confronting disappointment. I wish I had the answers to guide everyone out of their slumps, but I don’t. Though, I have realized one thing: I am not alone in this experience. We are all performing to the best of our ability, whatever that looks like, even if it doesn’t seem enough. We are trying to adapt to circumstances we couldn’t have possibly planned for. Distance learning has been difficult, so give yourself some space. You have done, and already are, enough.  

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