Stay at home or return; students faced with difficult decisions

Alana Amaya | Staff Writer

Amidst another wave of COVID cases, the option given at the start of the school year is being offered once again and students weigh in on the pros and cons of online versus in-person learning.

Junior Saira Shafqat noticed how the ‘online’ teachers take on a very different role compared to the ‘in-person’ teachers, providing lessons and assignments for the students to read through and analyze on their own.

“It’s not the teacher telling you exactly step by step,” Shafqat said. “You have to mostly teach yourself.”

For some, this flexibility can be seen as a significant benefit. Online students can make the decision for themselves on what to work on each day, and for how long they work on it. However, online school requires participating in only a maximum of two Zoom calls per class period each week. Shafqat has felt the effects of this lack of face-to-face interaction with teachers.

“You’re at home, you’re not spending seven hours at school, and you have all this time on your hands to work,” Shafqat said. “It affects my communication with my teachers because grade wise, you just have to complete your assignments [and] sometimes they don’t even do zoom meetings.”

Other students have felt this same detachment and noticed the difference between their relationships with their teachers now as compared to previous years. Junior Aditya Thiyag has felt “a sort of disconnect” with his cohort.

“Because I’m not interacting with them everyday, I don’t have a personal connection with them like I did usually,” Thiyag said.

Completing the lessons and assignments of every class period takes preparation, concentration, and organization from the student. Choosing the remote option means the students aren’t being forced to do work for specific classes for a set amount of time daily. In order to maintain his grades and avoid the pitfalls of procrastination, Junior Arjun Singh Narang has had to “set a standard” for himself.

“I’ve had to work on organization and be able to really set a certain amount of time for tasks to be done,” Singh Narang said. “It can be challenging, especially because it’s really hard to stay focused when you have so many distractions like your computer and your phone around you.”

Beyond the academic aspect, regarding the school as an environment has been a key contrast between the two options. Although Junior Aditya Thiyag chose online learning, he acknowledged that he would prefer to be in school. As an outgoing person, Thiyag said being in a classroom prepares him to learn whereas his house feels like a less professional setting.

“At home in my study or in my bed — it gives me too much of a sense of comfort, so I don’t feel inclined to learn as much,” Thiyag said.

However, some students find that the social aspect of school has been the biggest difference. Online students may be learning the same content as their peers but they are learning alone. Staying at home every day, Singh Narang has felt left behind or isolated from his fellow classmates.

“It’s definitely very socially isolating because I really loved to hangout with my friends and just have a good time with them,” Singh Narang said. “[Socializing] has been very limited now because usually I would see them at school we would hang out maybe after school. Now I barely get to see them at all.”

Thiyag also understands this sentiment.

“People are really social, especially teenagers,” Thiyag said. “They need people to talk to and not having those people can prove to be a detriment to [their] mental health.”

For Junior Luaren Varga, this was enough for her to go in-person for school, which she realized during the required switch to online at the start of the pandemic.

“I need people, I need social activity, I need human connection,” Varga said. “I learn so much better from a human talking to me. I need a teacher. If I were to go online I feel like I’d struggle.”

In person, interactive learning was a big factor in Varga’s decision to choose the in school option. She wanted classes where she could interact with others in group problem solving and task oriented projects.

“I take teachers academy and that’s all an in person thing. You can’t really do that online because you’re learning how to teach children. When you get quarantined and stuff it’s super hard to do that online because it’s all group work and hands on activities,” Varga said.

However, Thiyag believes he personally made the right and necessary decision going online. Having at-risk family members led Thiyag to initially choose online learning in order to keep himself and his family safe from the virus.

“Due to the circumstances, I think it would be much smarter to pick online because even though you’re not going to get that in person experience, you still have teachers that are willing to talk to you and help you,” Thiyag said. “Also, you’re significantly safer, and you’re not exposed to as many people everyday. There’s no point in learning if your health is super compromised.”

Given Thiyag’s situation, airing on caution may be life-saving, as one instance of exposure could lead to a grave outcome. Sophomore Ava Hertelendy who is learning in person voiced a few concerns that support Thiyag’s worries.

“I don’t feel safe because I always see kids in the hallways with their masks down,” Hertelendy said. “That is kind of worrisome — especially when there’s a bunch of students crowding around in the hallways. I will also say my teachers have almost everyday had to ask students to put their mask up above their nose.”

Junior Tulasi Rao is uncomfortable with the fact there is “so much uncertainty” because she is worried about putting her friends and my family at risk, something many MHS students fear on a daily basis. While in school there are safety protocols to follow but when a student is outside of school they can gather with friends and groups without repercussion. Situations where students could be exposed to Covid away from school has students worried that their behavior will ultimately impact others who have been following stringent safety mandates.

“I feel like people listen for the most part but the thing is I feel like in school everyone is wearing their mask and following protocols, but outside of school people don’t hesitate to go to these big parties and big gatherings and just not care about COVID outside of MHS,” Rao said.

Students must weigh a variety of factors when choosing what works best for them — health, learning style, social tendencies — but ultimately, it is up to them to figure which of these matter most.

“Online is not the best for all students,” Singh Narang said in regards to the personality of the student at hand. “But if you’re the kind of person who is really independent, determined, and focused, I believe online is something that is necessary for them — and that it could be the better option.”