I began to feel the adverse effects of online school while doing homework one night during our second week. My mind a relentless murmur of the same fatigue that seemed to unfocus my eyes and sway my thoughts during the school day, I spent an hour reading a passage again and again, trying to drill into my brain material I couldn’t seem to understand during the day’s lesson. I had only just finished as the clock struck 1:00, an unpleasant reminder that I had six hours left to sleep before needing to get up and repeat the exhaustive cycle. And I’m not the only one who has felt this way — in fact, many of my peers are also drained to the point of collapse.
Because of the challenges and limitations of distance learning, teachers should assign less homework and tests and be more understanding of the current mental and educational state of students.
The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that in-person school is essential for the well-being and education of students, and it is only through a physical environment that students can function to the best of their ability. While some teachers online have attempted to replicate intense debates and thoughtful discussions that make many students prefer in-person classes, these experiences have not been as fruitful. The lack of energy, internet disruptions and many other small differences take away from the usually-stimulating U-High environment, making it more of a chore than an engaging learning experience. Furthermore, the isolation and boredom students are feeling while confined to their houses makes them less inclined to contribute and add to a class conversation.
The lack of presence and liveliness experienced in many classes extends to homework as well. It’s harder to pay attention in classes when I’m staring at a bright screen of tiny boxes, and I am not fully understanding some of the material, which makes homework seem harder than it was previously. Overall, online school is far from being the same experience as a physical classroom is, so students should not be expected to keep up with the substantial workload usually given throughout the year.
Some would argue that, even though online learning may not be preferable, high schoolers now have extended free time, that not using their open schedule for school is just laziness, and it is their responsibility to keep up with their workload. While some students may be spending their time procrastinating, the majority of students are indeed trying the best they can. The stress of a rapidly changing world can distract many from completing their assignments, or it may cause people to lose the motivation and stamina needed to keep up with schoolwork. Furthermore, quantity does not equate to quality: although students are given more time to complete assignments, this hardly makes up for the gaps in education that students are experiencing due to online school, and many experience confusion over course material.
Plus, many students are unable to combat their problems with usual solutions. Tracking down teachers for help by email can be challenging, feeling lonely can no longer be solved by a surprise visit to a friend’s house, and even getting a breath of fresh air is unlikely without a tight mask. With many problems and few clear solutions, students feel hopeless and unable to concentrate.
Distance learning has some benefits, such as more time to work, but they hardly make up for the costs, and faculty should respect the limitations in our learning and by relaxing expectations for grades. While there’s nothing to do except bide our time and pray for a vaccine, I know that once school is back in session, I will be overall more successful and happy, even with the added stress of back-to-back classes and tiredness. Until then, though, students deserve a reasonable, and diminished, workload.