Online School: In Review

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We are all too familiar with the many challenging aspects of life during Covid-19, but what do the kids have to say about it? Over the past year, everyone has adjusted to their unique situations in different ways. Studying and working from home has become the new normal for many, however, this situation is costing some more than others. Devastating layoffs have left families impoverished, healthcare workers have grown accustomed to sleepless nights, and millions have lost loved ones to the virus. It’s no question that the state of the world is a scary one right now, and everyone is feeling it in some way. But, students, in particular the class of 2020, had to deal with the unique challenges of online learning. Most students are now back in school, but let’s hear about the feedback from the short, but surely impactful period of online learning.
Journee Wittenberg, a Kelowna Secondary School alumni, addressed the situation. “I’m going to be completely honest, I’m upset that this pandemic uprooted the finale of my educational career. It sucks that everything my peers and I have worked towards since we were 5 has been taken away from us so easily.” Wittenberg finishes her statement by acknowledging that the situation is bigger than her. “However, I completely understand the gravity of this situation and understand that the decisions the school board have made are serious and for a good reason. It’s sad that I wasn’t able to graduate traditionally with my class, but it’s even more sad to know that there is a pandemic taking the lives of innocent people out there.”
Aside from the setbacks the 2020 graduating class faced, this digital school era will certainly be influential to education in the future. This unexpected opportunity may open doors for more personalized, nontraditional learning. Wittenberg offers her opinion once again. “I think adopting an online school presence during this pandemic will be used as a ‘test run’ for schools in the future to implement it into everyday school lives.” Only time will tell the long term impact that online schooling will have on education but, as of right now many students are opting to continue either exclusively or selectively with online school. But for the other students who are back in class, even more changes have come along with returning to school campuses. Mask mandates, sanitization stations, strict health screenings, and more, have been the outcome of the learning model the district adopted to keep kids safe in class.
Being back at school has been a huge relief to many, with the toll of the lack of in-person connections felt by many during online learning. But others felt the benefits of online outweighed the drawbacks, like Monique Hands, a Grade 11 student at Kelowna Secondary School. “I liked how we could choose when we worked on our projects, we could do them around our schedule.” This self-direction was new for many students, having always had the structure of the traditional school day. Perhaps taking control of their own learning helped students improve their work ethic, and grow their passion towards things they are interested in. Although the possibility remained for irresponsibility in abusing their sleep schedules and not having self-accountability, it appears students primarily used this time to reflect on themselves and hopefully improve similar unhealthy habits.
From a big-picture standpoint, people are very adaptable, and it’s impressive how quickly action was taken to ensure student and administration safety with the continuation of learning. These are unprecedented times, and as Wittenberg states “This is history in the making. No matter what happens after this pandemic is over, this will have been a good learning opportunity.” The alumni then signs off, addressing her teachers in a heartfelt message. “I have had so many teachers over the past 13 years and every single one has shown so much kindness and love for all of their students. I look up to all of you so much.” And to her peers she says, “I can’t wait to see how successful you all become and all the wonderful things adult life brings to you.” All and all, online school had its drawbacks but it also sets a precedent for exciting educational opportunities for the future. Hopefully the moral we can take from this wacky story is that even while the world stays closed, we should keep an open mind to all the new experiences and opportunities presented to us and make the most of them.