A Day in the Life of an Unfortunate Online High School Student

By: Lina El Saie

Hello I am Lina, a highschool Junior. If you are in disbelief upon reading that don’t worry I am also in disbelief it’s fine. Now, I spent the second semester (third and fourth quarters) of my sophomore year online and we did integrated learning for the first quarter and half of the second quarter of my junior year. I’ve experienced it all; forgetting your mic on, spending the entire lesson in the waiting room, disconnecting from sessions, rushing to charge your device before it dies, the power going out, getting kicked out of your class because you had to turn off the power because the washing machine face-planted next to its power source (just me? Oh okay), having to quarantine yourself because someone in your class got covid, and all that ahem good stuff. Having experienced all of that, may I just say that the life of a highschool student is unfortunate?

Here is what a normal school day looks like for a highschooler in 2020/2021:

Waking up:

I have around 8 alarms for school, why do I set 8 alarms for school? Because if I sleep through 1, there are 7 more. But there are some special instances where I either completely sleep through them or I turn them off and say oh I still have some time before my first class I’ll just sleep for a little and then I end up missing three classes (and that’s how I had to debate as a flat-earther). 

The actual classes: 

We are big believers of presentable on top and pajamas on the bottom, because who isn’t? To be completely honest, sometimes I attend class in my pajamas because it’s cold and I don’t care enough about looking presentable at 8-8:30 in the morning. Now, this is how classes usually go; we waste 10-20 minutes waiting for people to turn on their cameras and taking attendance, then we dive into the actual content for the rest of our 40 minute class (or 80 if it’s a double). The best part about online classes is that it gives you the chance to sit there feeling very uncomfortable for 2 hours and 40 minutes with a camera on showing you and the area you’re sitting in to your class. After the attendance/cameras debacle, we partake in the extreme sport of trying to read the notes on the board when the camera is focusing; this extreme sport usually results in the one person who manages to get a decent and focused view of the camera taking a picture of the notes and sending it on a class group chat. 

The breaks: 

I don’t know if this is the case for everyone, but we have back to back classes all day from 8:30 am  to 2:10 pm with a 20 minute break in the middle. This may just be my entire class and several friends but 20 minutes to eat, drink, use the bathroom, and actually exist without a camera on us is not enough. I usually spend my break walking around the house because my entire body hurts from sitting in front of a computer all day. 

After school: 

After school is the time where we have to do everything but really feel like doing nothing. We have homework, studying, trying to understand what we didn’t understand because online classes are okay but they aren’t the best, eating, and socializing. It is no lie that because we aren’t going to school every morning we lose so much social interaction because on a regular school day I see my buildings security guards, two uber drivers, the receptionist at school, at least 8 teachers, the hall supervisors, the cleaning staff, my classmates, my friends, and the schools security team. There is so much social interaction that we have to make up for and honestly zoom classes do not make up for that. 

Exams/quizzes:

We weren’t initially allowed to take exams and quizzes online because teachers thought we’d cheat since it would be easier to do so, but they fail to take into account that even when we were in class people would cheat. The fact of the matter is that being online only made it easier for some people to cheat but that doesn’t mean that if we were in in-person classes they wouldn’t be doing the same thing. So now that teachers are aware of all the possibilities when we’re at home they’re trying to find methods to prevent cheating, they’re honestly bad ones. I’ll list a few of my “favs”; everyone is unmuted for the entire duration of the exam, put a mirror in front of you and put another device behind you so we can monitor your every move, the “I want to see both the paper and you at the same time”. There’s also making students download certain programs for the exam, and my absolute fave out of all of these the “If you look away more than three times in the span of TWO HOUR EXAM you automatically fail”. I want to say that assessments are better than exams but they’re only better in theory. Why are they only better in theory? Well whether its an essay or a research paper, we’re mostly on our own on this one like we can email teachers but that doesn’t insure a speedy response. Like, I got into a “heated discussion” with our biology teacher last year because he offered to help us with the project el mesh 3arfeen ras’ha men regleeha and he didn’t offer me the help I was asking for until several hours before it was due. Another issue is that because teachers are trying to make these assessments challenging because for some people they’re replacing exams, they forget that we still have other subjects and we end up with a billion things to do in an extremely limited amount of time which results in collective nervous breakdowns at ungodly hours.

The curriculum: 

Here’s the thing; even though we’re LIVING THROUGH A GLOBAL PANDEMIC we’re still expected to do the same things but from home. I have to learn the same math that I would learn at school, the same chemistry, the same english material, the same business material, the same sociology material, the same french I’d learn at school and the same arabic. People still expect us to perform the same way we would perform under normal circumstances but I find that hilarious. I find this hilarious because it’s like people forget that students are also going through the pandemic, we are our own entities with our own thoughts and feelings so assuming that this won’t affect us is very comical. From the stress of living in the midst of a global pandemic to the stress of being students we are under a sh*t ton of pressure and I really feel sorry for us. 

The actual classes pt. 2: 

Boy do I have a lot to say about this one, brace yourselves. This is similar to how the curriculum itself isn’t adapted to be taught online, the thing is that teachers aren’t adapting their teaching styles either. Now this isn’t directed at all teachers because there are some pretty banging ones, but the idea that we should just sit there and listen to some explanation and somehow we’ll get it. Understanding stuff like math in between 40-80 minutes isn’t something we’d normally do, let alone something we’d do on zoom with crappy wifi. We are still expected to learn the same stuff, in the same way. Key words: in the same way. For starters the “old way” we’re using was already terrible but now it’s exponentially worse. Understanding stuff like math in between 40-80 minutes isn’t something we’d normally do, let alone something we’d do on zoom with crappy wifi. I learn more from Sal Khan after school than I do learn in my zoom sessions, why? Because I don’t ask the questions I want to ask. Why do I not ask the questions that I want to ask? Because it’s more embarrassing to ask a question in front of the entire class on a recorded session than it is to go up to a teacher in class and ask them a question. 

Okay online school sucks, but it’s better than in person school in this pandemic. We’ve tried it all, we tried it all while learning some pretty hard stuff. Whether you’re American, IGCSE, IB, National, Bac or any system of the sorts you’re doing some hard sh*t, the stress of being in-person at school, the responsibility of remote learning, the lack of social interaction, and not to mention the GLOBAL PANDEMIC. So, no matter what your grades are and no matter what anyone else says, I’m so proud of you.

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