In closing quarter 1, students and staff reflect on virtual learning successes and shortfalls


Emery Bigler

A typical B2 Art History virtual class with Mrs. Olson. Students are required to keep their cameras on to maximize participation.

It’s very clear that 2020 is no normal year by any standards. One of the major impacts of the virus was the shutting down of in person learning and the transition to fully virtual learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Now here at PHS, we’re one term into the 2020-2021 school year and a lot has changed since schools closed down in March.

Mainly, a school-wide plan was put into effect with multiple stages that allows PHS to be adaptable if the circumstances call for it. Teachers have all restructured their classes to be able to teach both hybrid and fully virtual students.

According to students, going all virtual has its benefits, like a later start time and a more comfortable work environment, but it has its challenges too. All-virtual sophomore student, Elsa Ebenhoch spoke to the difficulty of staying on task when you have to be self motivated.

“There’s a lot of distractions that can keep you from paying attention like going on your phone and stuff but otherwise it’s not too hard because I have the motivation to get my work done.” “It depends on the class,” Ebenhoch said. “Science classes are probably better in person because of the labs. But other than that, the teachers teach on zoom, so you’d be getting the same info you’d get in class.”

One of the major benefits of being in the classroom that gets taken away by virtual learning is the direct help from the teacher. Teachers are working hard to support virtual students as much as possible, making the experience as close to in-person learning as possible.

“Teachers are very accessible through email and g-chat.” Ebenhoch said. “And you can ask questions anytime during the zoom call.”

Many students have decided to go the route of hybrid learning. Sophomore Megan Murphy goes to school in person on Thursdays and Fridays and stays virtual on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays (as the entire school participates virtually on Wednesdays).

“Personally, I have not found it too much of a struggle to switch back and forth between in person and virtual because the teachers always do zooms so it feels like you’re there in a way.” Murphy said.

There are benefits and detriments to both in person and virtual school and students who do hybrid get to experience both.

“The pros of going in person on only Thursdays and Fridays would be that when you’re in person, it’s already Thursday so the week goes quicker.” Murphy said. “I also like how I am able to sleep more on virtual days. One con would be that I’m always split up from half of my friends.”

Though hybrid is not the ideal situation for most students, Murphy, like many other students, argues that it’s better than being forced to go all virtual similar to the end of last school year.

“I do think hybrid is better than all virtual because I think I learn better when I’m in the classroom and I have more motivation when I’m there.” Murphy said. “ I find it easier to ask questions in person too and that would all be taken away with virtual.”

Having to teach both in person and virtual students is just as challenging as it sounds according to PHS English teacher Sarah Wersal.

“It’s been tough trying to do this,” Wersal said. “The things I would do with in-person students are different than what I do with virtual kids (especially in discussion-based lessons). From that perspective, it feels as if I am doing double the planning to try and accommodate everyone.”

Wersal has noticed the changes herself and other teachers at PHS have made for virtual classes now that they have had time to adjust to this unique situation.

“This year, I feel more confident in engaging students virtually, and it feels more organized, and I feel like students also have a better grasp on virtual learning than last year too.” Wersal said. “I think students and teachers alike have had time to learn and be more organized in their virtual experiences.”

Overall, the consensus seems to be that this first term has been a learning experience for both students and teachers alike. But it has given everyone a chance to make adjustments and figure out what works best for them.

Other than the fact that most students and teachers would rather school be back to normal, it seems like generally, people are satisfied with what we were able to accomplish in spite of the virus. Hopefully this positive momentum can be carried into the rest of the year.

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