Distance learning stinks

Sacramento County school districts are all starting this fall with distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it may be a while before students are back in the classroom. (Photo from Wiki Commons)

Essay: School isn’t as educational not being in the classroom with teachers

By Akshaj Mehta

I like school. I’ve always been a good student and eager to learn, but distance learning really took the joy and excitement out of education for me. And even though I understand why we need to start school online during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m not looking forward to my fall classes, which started Aug. 6.

Since preschool, going to school meant meeting friends and learning from teachers. It was great. However this year—from the beginning of April until the end of May—I was distraught. I found that I cannot fully learn and grasp material through distance learning.

My classes consisted almost entirely of assignments on Google classroom due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday. I have those words practically burned into my brain. Distance learning seemed endlessly routine, with no thrill. I would have an essay due Sunday, a few days would pass and I’d finish it. I turned it in, and my grade went up by 2%. Normally, I would be proud, but I felt nothing.

Learning at home was very lenient so what was the problem? Reflecting on those months, I now realize it was because there was not any teacher interaction. Learning through videos and virtual assignments was not the same.

“I would have an essay due Sunday, a few days would pass and I’d finish it. I turned it in, and my grade went up by 2%. Normally, I would be proud, but I felt nothing.”

Akshaj Mehta is a 10th grader at Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep and creator of writetolead.com.

I was excited to finish my freshman year of high school strong, with good grades, and I did achieve that, but I did not feel accomplished.

But this was not teachers’ fault at all. They really did the best job they could. They were thrown into distance learning and had to figure everything out on the fly. The curriculum was great, some of the assignments were fun and they tried to keep everyone engaged through videos, etc. But it just wasn’t the same. Not being on campus with classmates and teachers to create face-to-face learning could just not be matched on the computer.

Props to teachers for keeping the same peppy attitude throughout when students could not. Unfortunately, they never got to see us truly shine at the end of the year. They never really had a chance to talk one on one with us, and they never got to see how much we really learned.

For some students, there are positives to distance learning. It is a great solution for those who can concentrate better at home; with less pressure than at school, they can learn more. The schedules are flexible; teachers were totally understanding if you had other responsibilities and were not able to do an assignment on time.

Overall, I have mixed feelings on schools not opening this fall for in-classroom learning. I completely understand why as it is necessary for the safety of students, teachers and staff. I am hoping for the best because I understand that education is the key to not just my future, but all students’.

One fact will stay true throughout everything: No matter what happens, students must be prepared and to adapt to whatever may come.

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3 Comments on "Distance learning stinks"

  1. I am hopeful that covid will positively impact education by cutting out a lot of the cost and focusing on actual teaching. So much of school today is state sponsored babysitting – including feeding the kids. Babysitting seems to have taken the place of education as the core focus as witnessed by the abysmal test scores in CA versus other state and developed countries. I suggest massive cut backs in the number of teachers and shifting 50% or more of the education process to online learning.

    In person classes should be limited to those with a lab component (biology, chemistry, trades based learning) to cut the amount of money spent on schools and administration. I would recommend using pre-recorded teaching sessions with aids responsible for answering additional questions. In the internet age, there is literally no K-12 question that can be asked without a tutorial on how to solve it already online, usually on YouTube. We don’t need teachers to live spoon-feed kids information when there are far better tutorial already available. Make the kids part of the process by looking up more information on their own for things they don’t understand.

    In a perfect world, you allow distance enrollment for any teacher for that class anywhere in the US. Maybe you have a ‘Super Teacher’ with 10,000+ viewers for their lecture and traditional teachers just perform as teachers’ aids. Why limit it to 25:1 in the internet age? Let the kids pick the teacher they think will provide them the best chance at learning. At the end of the year, convert everything into in-person standardized testing so there is no bias.

  2. This idea might be debated during this calamity. But here is a funny: “Let the kids pick the teacher they think will provide them the best chance at learning.” That is a puzzle that requires more research. HM

  3. Great observations! I appreciated your transparency and acknowledging that this learning context does work for some and not for others. I hope that politicians, parents, and educators put these two ideas together and come to the conclusion that, returning to “normal” should NOT be our goal. This is a chance to blow up the box and provide opportunities.

    If we go back to “normal” the kids who learn best through distance learning and are forced to return to the classroom and are no longer being offered what works for them. Right now, what many students are experiencing, the frustration that their needs are not being met, is what those people feel every single day of every single year in the traditional classroom. There are some charter schools out there who are providing hybrid and online learning, but thanks to recent legislation, expansion is limited.

    I think my biggest take away from COVID is that any problems which were swept under the rug or ignored previously, are now glaringly apparent. The question will be, will they be swept under the rug again or will we use this opportunity for change?

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