By Lauren Gustafson
Though she already has a year under her belt enrolled at Mt. Hebron, sophomore Olivia Hoover hardly recognizes the building she entered for the first time last April. The halls she used to walk through with ease are now bustling with unfamiliar faces as she pushes her way to class. Freshman year in a pandemic painted quite a different picture of the building than what she now sees, even with her return to hybrid learning in the spring.
Aside from the repopulation of classrooms directly associated with the return to school, Hoover notes the differences she sees in her classes.
“I’d definitely say they’re more difficult,” she explains, “I have to do the assignment correctly now unlike last year where everything was for completion”. This seems to be the consensus throughout the school, many also citing policies in place last year that required leniency on late work.
“A lot of people I know feel the same way, that the workload is much bigger and it really matters how you do,” Hoover noted.
Though there were apparent challenges associated with online learning, another sophomore Habiba Shabir quite enthusiastically reflects on last year’s changes as generally positive. Though she missed the typical social-learning environment of a high school, she describes her previous classes as “definitely easier than this year.”
A blessing and a curse, easier classes made for better grades but ramifications she expects to suffer from in the future. She notes last year’s focus on her grades, and not necessarily her understanding of the topics she was learning, noting, “It is more difficult and tedious this year than last year. Last year, it felt like it was just for completion but this year you need to actually put in the effort.”
With last year being less challenging, many have cited their fears of learning deficits as a result of a less intensive gap in their education. Shabir is especially concerned about the fate of her sophomore class, as she sees the transitional period of freshman year as essential in the success of a student. “I feel like I don’t work as hard as I should have, or as I would have if online school didn’t exist and now I’m stuck just completing tasks and not focused on actually learning, and I feel like that could affect me long term.”
Though this gap is widely agreed upon amongst students in her grade, plans for remediation are not apparent. Hoover mentioned many of her teachers’ eagerness to resume teaching in their pre-pandemic poise without thought of their students’ potential need for a buffer period to get back into the swing of the demanding schedule of a seven-hour school day. She cites the “caught off guard” nature of her and her classmates as a result of this lack of awareness of students’ need for time to adjust.
“It’s already better than the first few days though”, she positively remarks, almost certain of her classmates’ ability to adjust to the new rigorous schedule. It’s surely noted that students of the pandemic are flexible after a year of such change, and this is just one more hurdle for today’s learners to take in stride.