Students contrast year of e-learning with first semester of in-person learning

After a semester of being fully back to in person learning, looking back on the year we spent in zoom classes almost feels like a fever dream. But for many students, the effects that year had on our outlook about academics, mental health, and school in general has profoundly changed. Despite the ever growing distance we have from e-learning, the way we view being in physical school is fundamentally different than it was 2 years ago. 

“It’s easier to focus when you’re in person because when you’re online it’s very easy to just turn off your camera, or mute your mic and go on your phone,” senior Avery Teinowitz says. “It’s more interesting —the stuff that you learn in person—because you can really do more activities with the curriculum. The curriculum is designed to be in person.”

Being back in person has also reminded us of the importance of peer interaction in education. Many classes in ETHS have operated on models that center around group work and peer review, but zoom classes brought all of that to a halt. Now, though, we can see the efficacy of those teaching models for ourselves. 

“Now if you have a question in class, you can raise your hand. If you want to just talk to other students about it because you don’t feel comfortable with the teacher for whatever reason, you can ask another student in that moment,” junior Isaiah Thompson says. “I feel like that communication is the most important thing.”

However, this isn’t to say that e-learning didn’t have its upsides. For many students, even though e-learning felt unfocused, it was enjoyable because it was laid back. A lot of the best parts of e-learning are the same things that stopped us from learning to the best of our abilities, but in the moment that freedom felt like a great thing.

“This is a little sad, but you were able to turn off your camera if you wanted to. Like if you were just having a hard day or you just felt super tired,” sophomore Hazel Hayes says, “The other thing is just the freedom of being able to eat whenever you want, or just go do random things while you’re still in class.” 

Additionally, others explain the lack of focus e-learning caused. 

“I struggled a lot with not being productive in class,” Thompson says. “But I wouldn’t communicate with my teachers, and because of that I wouldn’t get the help that I needed.”

Freshman Jonah Bertalan expresses a similar experience. 

“It started off good but then as the year progressed, it became terrible. It was definitely harder to learn because there were so many other distractions and things I could be doing,” Bertalan says. 

But despite the different experiences of e-learning from an academic lens, the social aspect of e-learning was almost universally challenging. Now that we’re back, despite the stress brought on by challenging classes, and the plethora of problems that come with it, many students can see vitality of school to teens’ social lives

“I think it really highlighted how much of school isn’t being told information or filling out worksheets – it’s all about social interactions. Getting to know people, seeing classmates and teachers, and just generally being around other human beings is a critical part of school,” Teinowitz says. “I think people talk a lot about the negative effects school can have on mental health, which is absolutely true, but school also has a really powerful positive impact on mental health.”