Staged photograph by Isabelle Stid
During spring break, before M-A opened for in-person learning, many of my friends and I had doubts about what in-person learning would be like if we would see each other, and how our classes would run. After I came back on campus last week in cohort B1, I don’t regret making the decision to return. It has been a long year at home, and on Zoom, so this experience has been a much-needed break from an agonizing quarantine and a reminder of normalcy.
When I learned I would still be on Zoom for each of my classes, I felt a tinge of disappointment. I did not feel it was necessary for me to wake up at 8:00 in the morning for the first time this year, only to do what I have been doing before, except in a classroom. I was quickly won over, though, by the feeling of actually being in school and seeing other students and teachers. Even though I often prefer spending time with myself versus in large groups, being alone with only my computer inside the walls of my bedroom could be defeating and tedious, so seeing people besides my family has certainly given me the motivation to troop on to the end of this school year. At school, I was reminded everyone else is equally in this as me, and we are all overcoming adversity. It was also refreshing to see some familiar faces and catch up with teachers I never had a chance to say goodbye to last year.
Another reason I enjoy being in school is that it has forced me to adhere to a healthier routine. During online learning, I often would go on my phone or finish up homework between class periods, but that ultimately meant I was either in my room or the kitchen for hours, which was neither enjoyable nor healthy. When I was at school, I was walking around and eating in the sun—these small actions and reminders of routine, made me feel more excited to be a student in high school. Even simply not wearing pajamas during the day made me feel revitalized and ready to conquer my plans set out for the day, after a long period of hibernation.
On-campus, I find myself asking my teachers more questions and feeling more excited to get work done. Last year, I wondered how one could go through a day taking six courses from 8:45 to 3:05, but I now realize it was because in-person learning brings much more color into my schedule. Even the small conversations with teachers or the intra-lecture laughs brought me the energy to continue learning.
Aside from the classroom ambiance, there are also practical benefits to being in person. In classes like math and chemistry, I did not have to be on Zoom and could work out problems on the whiteboard, as well as discuss problems I did not understand with other students. Breakout rooms are great but can be awkward and hard to navigate amid the ten other tabs I have to switch between. Moreover, I ask more questions in my classrooms since my teachers become more accessible, and I do not have to overcome all the technicalities of Zoom.
One caveat to in-person learning so far is that some classes have been lonely. In two of my periods, I was the only student in the room. Seeing more people in my classes and around campus is what makes in-person learning worthwhile. In the following weeks, I look forward to seeing even more classmates and faces previously hidden behind Zoom squares.