Head to Head: Learning Environments
Two Accolade editors discuss how in-person school and distance learning have affected their well-being
November 12, 2021
Conversation among peers cleanses mind, reduces stress
Sophomore Year 2020-2021: No dances, no football games to attend and no classrooms to chat in.
Distance learning, aside from stunting the academic aspect of school, left me staring at my computer screen for long hours without uttering more than a couple of words. The silence completely consumed my daily school hours and left me feeling empty, almost hollow on the inside.
These past couple of months coming back to in-person learning truly demonstrated the power one conversation between myself and another student or teacher holds over lifting my mood for the rest of the school day.
Especially after a long day’s worth of online testing and lectures, I missed the quick passing periods I used to spend rambling to my friends about the previous classes. Remote learning offered me nothing but eight minutes of sitting in silence, or the occasional short Facetime call with my friends.
Distance learning, to say the least, took a heavy toll on my mental health. Upon returning to in-person school, I realized how large of an impact a simple conversation holds over my mental health and emotional well-being. In fact, the first few days of school demonstrated how exchanging a couple of words, or even smiles, between classes with my friends significantly improved my outlook on life.
Teacher-to-student communication stood as another impediment in the day-to-day life of distance learning.
Although the Student Support period at the end of the school day during the 2020-2021 school year offered accommodations for questions or clarifications, asking a teacher for help over Zoom or email proved to be much more of a hassle compared to raising a hand in class or stopping by during break.
Distance learning, however, did take into account student mental health by easing the academic aspect of school.
The flexibility of my distance learning schedule allowed me to get ahead and cleared my worries in regards to late assignments and piling work. Though, in the long run, any free time only encouraged procrastination habits for the in-person school year.
Open note exams simplified maintaining a high GPA, but they did not contribute to retaining the knowledge I use for the classes I am taking this year.
In-person learning accommodates student mental health through simplified communication between students and teacher.
Boy am I glad to be back.
Distance learning provides much time for introspection
Friday the 13th, 2020. That day of school before all Fullerton Joint Union High School District schools “temporarily” closed down because of increasing COVID-19 concerns is one that I am unlikely to ever forget.
The night before, I had stayed up all night writing an essay on “Macbeth.” Four cups of coffee and 15 minutes of sleep later, I was on my way to school.
Days like that were not uncommon as my schoolwork and extracurricular activities often left me with little free time. So, when the announcement from principal Allen Whitten told us that we would not be returning to school for three weeks, which included one week of spring break, I had to stop myself from literally cheering out loud.
Although the next year and a half I spent in online learning was challenging at times, it had its benefits.
Distance learning gave me increased control over my schedule, allowing me to work on assignments during my productive periods instead of being forced to do it all during a noisy class period or an irritatingly long Zoom. This development decreased my stress and anxiety about assignment due dates.
Furthermore, doing school from the comfort of my own room eliminated the need to dress “trendy.” Most days my outfits consisted of an old T-shirt and pajama bottoms.
For people like me, who often feel anxious about fitting in at school, online learning drastically improved my social anxiety, as I no longer needed to face any judgement from my peers every morning.
I also noticed that my eating habits started to improve since I could go downstairs in my house to the kitchen and grab a snack or meal whenever I was hungry. In-person school, on the other hand, was often so hectic that I would often have my first meal of the day after school.
Attending school from home also brought me closer to my family. Being home made it easier for me to periodically check in with my loved ones throughout the day.
I understand the argument that in-person learning is better for our mental health because we get healthy social interaction. I too felt isolated when I did not see my friends for months.
However, the benefits of remaining at home gave me a much-needed “vacation” from the harsh realities of everyday life. In the end — though I am glad to be back in the classroom with my friends every day — I look back on the days I spent in quarantine fondly.
Boy am I hungry.
When Thaker isn't writing stories and interviewing others, she is buried in homework, volunteering, interning for the New England Academy or focusing on club activities. In her free time, Thaker enjoys playing with her puppy, Arya, and reading dystopian fiction books.