As we approach the halfway point of the first semester on October 23, Carrboro High School students and teachers reflect on their first weeks of online learning.
The 2020-2021 school year looks different for many reasons at CHS. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools introduced a block schedule where students have four classes and attend each class twice a week. Because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the district has opted for completely virtual schooling, meaning students are given time outside of class meetings to tackle their schoolwork.
Switching from a seven period day to a four period day is challenging enough, but adding complete online learning and a pandemic has made the school year extra difficult for both students and teachers.
Like any major shift to the education system, there are advantages and disadvantages to online learning.
“Although I’m being given more freedom for when I want to work, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to manage my time on my own,” said freshman Rachel Helms, via email.
“One advantage to online learning is that it is teaching me to have better time management, which is definitely going to be a good skill for college,” said junior Sydney Dechow, via email.
However, some students were more prepared for a block schedule than others. Starting in 2018, the freshman class at CHS adopted a blended schedule, with a majority of their core classes being block periods.
“I think that having the blend of block and regular classes last year helped me get used to sitting in the same class for an hour and a half, especially transitioning from middle school where classes are really short,” said sophomore Gil Rogerson.
Having a ninety minute period can make it difficult to focus for the entirety of the lesson and requires some getting used to for many students, as well as teachers. Along with having to teach online, which can be less interactive, teachers have had to make changes to their curriculum so that it can be taught in one semester.
Because of the pandemic, most students and teachers work in their living spaces. This disruption to the typical school/home balance is overwhelming for many people, and makes it hard to separate home from work. Success relies heavily on time management skills.
Sue Stites, CHS Spanish teacher has found that there is less of a division between work and relaxation, making it hard to know when to stop working.
“I’m not being very good about stopping working, because I used to leave work at school. Now work is on my dining room table, I can’t get away from it,” said Stites.
Students have found different ways to relax and get away from their schoolwork to maintain that division, whether it be through physical exercise, social interaction or just leaving the room where they do work.
“It’s really nice to be able to take breaks that are away from the area that you’re doing your homework in, it really helps get yourself back in the mindset of doing schoolwork and then get yourself into relaxation mode,” said Rogerson.
Although school looks much different this year, students and teachers are making the best of their situations to have a productive year.
Stites is in her final year of teaching and while this year has been drastically different from her previous 30 years as a teacher, she’s embracing its strangeness.
“I’m learning all kinds of crazy things, but that’s the thing that I think I want everybody to get out of this is this may be the only time you ever do this, and it may be confusing, and it may be hard, but we’re going to make it out on the other side and we’re going to feel really good about the fact that we accomplished this stuff in spite of a pandemic,” said Stites.
Even though online learning isn’t ideal, what we’ve seen during the first semester is that we can and will persevere. While these times are overwhelming, make sure to take time for yourself and recognize that there is light at the end of the tunnel.