Dear Teachers, We hate distance learning, but you can help

I like to consider myself a motivated person. I’ve trained myself to age group triathlon victories, kept straight A’s in school, and I’ve even run my own summer swim lesson business since I was 11. Somehow, that motivation isn’t transferring over to my distance learning. I find it exceedingly hard to sit in the silence of my room and force myself to work on assignment after assignment. I’ve always liked school, but distance learning, let’s just say it’s not something I enjoy. I was sure that other students felt the same way, so I decided to reach out.

In the absence of being able to interview students face-to-face, I talked to 18 students via iMessage and a post on my Instagram story. In addition, some of those students, and others participated in a few polls. While a variety of complaints were divulged, many students shared similar concerns. Below, I have synthesized their opinions.

Months ago, before the threat of Covid-19 was looming, if you had asked a student at LCHS if they wanted to miss three months of school, the chance that they would have said yes, is pretty high. But as we sit at home, wrestling with distractions, and staring silently at our computer screens, we long for the smiling faces and energetic buzz found in the air at school.

Everyday, LCHS students sit down and get to work on their distance learning. Those same students quickly find themselves frustrated, and confused. As we struggle through our lessons, we juggle feelings of anxiety and we can’t help but feel like our anxieties are being ignored by you, our teachers.

Our anxiety is on the rise 

As we hear about family and friends contracting the infamous COVID-19, our anxiety levels rise. As you assign us lesson, after project, after reading, our anxiety spikes even higher. While some teachers are assigning manageable amounts of work, others seem to be assigning more work than when we were in school. A poll of 34 students shows that 88% of students feel like we are being assigned too much work. We are the upstanding and opinionated future of our country, and we would like our opinions on our workload to be considered.

At present, there are many things to keep in mind when assigning work, such as the fact that out of a poll of 33 students, 82% said that their distance learning work takes longer than it would if they were in school. We want to learn all of the things that we should be learning in this unexpected time away from school, but we don’t want to be overwhelmed, as many of us currently are. It’s also important that we feel the work we are being given is meaningful.

Currently, 89% of the 36 students who participated in a poll, say that they feel like the majority of what we’re being assigned is busy work. The best way for teachers to combat all of these issues is by simply talking to their students and modifying projects and assignments accordingly.

We used to love your teaching methods

All year we have been learning from you, our teacher. You have been teaching us the curriculum in your intricately curated way. We’re used to it, that’s what works for us. Even your “unconventional” methods, we have come to understand and appreciate. We acknowledge that things are different now, but we don’t want the methods that you are using to teach us, to be different now too.

Sophomore Mariam Khan said over Instagram direct message, “In history, my teacher liked to do activities with us, and now that we have online school, we have no way of doing those because the site we use just requires us to read and answer questions. I find it very boring and [I] feel like the knowledge won’t stick because the teachers aren’t there to engage with us.”

If you taught us with demonstrations and lectures, then readings and pre-made videos found online are not teaching us in the same way. We are acclimated to your teaching methods and we want to continue using them to learn and excel, even if you have to share them with us over video.

Freshman Bella Whelchel remembers a time when math teacher Matthew Prince used a dice rolling activity to teach exponential growth. “This really helped show me that it didn’t take much at all for a small number to become really big (with exponents), but there is absolutely no way that would have worked as seamlessly over the computer,” Whelchel said over text. “If any of my teachers were to have something similar planned for the rest of the year to teach the remaining curriculum, we won’t get to experience it.”

This is just one example of a teaching method that can’t easily be shared, but Whelchel, like many students, hopes that we will still get to partake in intriguing learning opportunities such as the one she talked of above.

Our assignments could be anywhere

As you test out new ways to get content to us, you’re both confusing and overwhelming us. We have to search for our assignments on Google Classroom, Edmentum, Nearpod, Flip Grid, in our email, and in our Studentvue messages, among other places. We don’t even know when you’ll be posting a new assignment. Some teachers post daily, others biweekly, others weekly, and others randomly. If all teachers consistently choose one platform to post our work on, we will know where to look, and things will be much easier. Additionally, if all teachers post once a week, we will know how many assignments we have to complete that week and we will be able to plan our time more efficiently. This will help us to feel less distressed by our work.

Active communication is the key

Many students, especially hands-on learners, are having trouble adjusting to our new way of learning. The common question between students seems to be, “How do I ask a question?” We’re restrained to certain times every week, when we are supposed to be able to expect a quick answer from you via email, that is, if you aren’t already busy helping another student.

“The time delay for a teacher to respond to emails when you have a question forces you to switch between classes to stay efficient, making it harder to focus on one topic,” freshman William Long said over Instagram direct message.

Frequently it seems, our teachers’ answers fall short. Corresponding by email simply does not provide the level of clarification we crave as an answer to our questions. The fix to this problem is not uncomplicated, but one solution could be optional meetings on Zoom or Google Meet. These meetings could take the place of “office hours,” as they would be a time for teachers to answer student questions. These “face-to-face” meetings could really help students to understand content.

Distance learning certainly poses a wide array of challenges. Yet, distance learning is far from the greatest challenge of the present, and it is certainly something that Raiders can overcome.