A Fresh(man) Perspective: Distance Learning


Gabriella Clark, Reporter

Completely new to James Campbell High School (JCHS), and high school in general, being thrown into the whirlwind of fresh, higher education mixed in with Coronavirus closures and delays – freshmen are in for a rough ride. Typically greeted with an orientation day to themselves before upperclassmen arrive on campus, the Class of 2024 started their journey as Sabers in an atypical way.

Freshman student council president Lucas Roberts said, “Seeing friends, interacting with everyone, and just having a place where we can be ourselves is something that we all lost due to the virus. I’m getting used to online classes, but it’s just not the same. I would much rather be doing in-person.”

Campbell freshman Emma Olivares describes a similar issue. She said, “I feel more stressed because I can’t physically talk to someone, and sometimes I can’t ask questions immediately like I would in a normal class.”

Feeling unable to socialize or develop new relationships, while cherishing the old ones, and feeling disconnected in general, is a common theme amongst freshmen struggling to adapt to the new school setting. Having a screen separating students from teachers and peers is turning out to be more difficult than originally believed for some. Olivares said, “I’m not really a verbal or strictly reading person because of my disability. For me, it requires more physical things to retain knowledge better.”

Roberts reiterated the idea that school is more than just for school, rather it’s the social interactions that make it complete. “There’s a lot of disadvantages in online school, the major ones [including] not being able to talk or hang out with any of my peers, teachers have a limit to how they can help you, so it can be difficult if you don’t understand the subject, and going back to bad habits because we don’t have the outlet of school clubs and sports.” He said that he’s had his struggles stemming from this change as well, feeling depressed, emotionally confused, and saddened that he’s unable to be there for his friends and classmates.

Emerson Piedad, another Campbell freshman, explains that anxiety can come from the stressful possibility of missing out on assignments in this new system– a system that students and teachers alike are still getting used to. “I think it’s a little stressful that teachers don’t have a unanimous way of showing assignments, so keeping track of new work is hard.” Piedad said he hasn’t missed any of his assignments just yet, but he’s constantly worried he’ll forget to complete a task since teachers use varying platforms for assigning and completing classwork and homework.

Another obstacle freshmen are encountering is the eerie Google Meets calls, where more students prefer to have their cameras off and microphones muted. Roberts said that when everyone is disconnected, it’s hard to stay motivated. “[Lack of interaction] is affecting the whole vibe and bringing everyone down.”

Piedad agrees, but with a stipulation. “Using our camera and mic is awkward, teachers can slowly ease into more group activities, maybe just chat-based instead of microphone-use.”

Olivares said the lack of true interaction is leading to a lesser understanding of the work. She said that students tend to refuse to converse on the virtual class calls and instead rely on their peers to explain the work afterward, a system she calls “not very efficient.”

Ainsley Tait, also a Campbell freshman, said that lackluster motivation and reluctance to participate in online conversations is a tricky issue. “In general, all students should voice their opinions to show their teachers that what they are doing isn’t [always] helping them. However, they shouldn’t be rude to their teachers as this is new to them as well.”

Olivares said that while there are numerous disadvantages to virtual learning, she’s still getting an education, which she is grateful for. “What matters is that the instructor is qualified to teach their subject for their class and knows how to do an online class inventively. Which I think the teachers pass pretty well.”

“It may be hard, but everyone going through this can’t lose hope,” Roberts said. “It’s cliche, but we are all in this together.”