While finding our bearing in distance learning, concerns regarding our physical well-being and mental health arose. These concerns remain relevant long after the subsequent adjustment (in varying levels) to online Zoom classes and sitting at one’s desk for hours at an end. Staring at your electronic devices for hours daily, without much physical activity, can lead to eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, as reported by Harvard Health.
We asked La Canada High School students, teachers, and staff to share their thoughts and experiences on distance learning, as well as the effects that it has had on their daily lives and education.
Common threads emerged from the numerous answers to the three questions listed below. These generalized sentiments towards the pandemic and online learning included boredom, a preference for regular school, gratitude for the privilege of accessing education, struggles with technological issues, and homework being assigned above the normal amount.
- What is your experience in Distance Learning for school like so far or your observations of other people’s experiences?
Noemi Fusco, junior: I would say that it’s better than nothing but is challenging as well for students.
Anonymous, sophomore: My experience has been positive, academically, and I have found that teachers have overwhelmingly adapted incredibly well to online learning. However, the material is still hard, and the stress of school without a social security blanket to lean on nor a sport to relieve stress has led me to long depressive bouts, which has definitely taken a toll on my mental and physical health.
Anonymous, senior: I think it depends on the person. For me, I don’t think it is effective. Personally, looking at a screen and not seeing anyone in person makes it not feel like school. Because of that I think it is hard to put yourself in a mindset for working hard.
Elyse Hwang, sophomore: I’ve gotten a lot of Zoom fatigue from staring at the screen for so long. Also, the breaks are too short – you don’t have enough time to go outside or get off the screen for long enough. This is especially true for lunch. After I finish making lunch it feels like I have to speed-eat to make it to my next class. It also feels very socially isolating. I’m not the most social person, but I do enjoy talking to my seat partner every now and then or bumping into friends in the hallway.
Elise Sarkissian, parent: My experience with distance learning has been nothing but positive. I see my students more rested and more focused on their studies, [with] less distraction, no peer pressure, [and] no competition.
Anonymous, senior: I love it! I know a lot of people want to go back to school, but I think this is great. I get to see my friends when I want, days are shorter, and I have had an overall better balance in my life. The only thing that I miss are my teachers.
Ms. Munday, Orchestra teacher: It feels better than last Spring. We have realized that this is school time and not an extended period of waiting. I feel like the students appreciate the efforts of everyone and that this is our new normal for a while.
Teagan Godby, senior: Initially, Distance Learning was a difficult adjustment from transitioning to face-to-face learning to online schooling. However, I have come to enjoy the different ways of learning and unique teaching methods that I have observed within the end of my Junior year and the start of my Senior year. It is as if teachers and students are more engaged and engrossed in the material then before. Distance learning has proven to be more convenient and accessible compared to regular schooling.
Spencer Melilo, senior: I find it hard to stay invested and focused for the whole day, despite the shorter hours. This is especially challenging on block days. However, I understand and appreciate that everyone is doing their best.
Audra Steinbrugge, sophomore: I think a lot of people miss the social aspect of school, especially right now when we’re all stuck at home. I think it’s really important to stay connected with the people you care about because they’re probably just as lost as you with this new system. A friend I’m not all that close with anymore texted me out of the blue last week and we got a chance to reconnect. Little things like that are really nice and helpful and could brighten someone’s day!
Claire Hong, freshman: Doing distance learning for school helped me procrastinate less and also got me more motivated to finish homework.
Sarah Arcaris, junior: I don’t see much of a difference in terms of the general idea. School has always been the same, day in, day out, a painfully boring and unrewarding cycle. To be honest, initially I felt liberated due to COVID-19 disrupting the daily schedule of school, homework, sleep, repeat. Even with a different format, I find myself falling into the same routine. I regret not lightening up and spending more time with friends in the previous years, instead only focusing on school. I have found nothing worth doing so far.
Noah Massabki, sophomore: It’s incredibly difficult to stay focused on Zoom, even with the shortened periods along with the 10 minute passing period, and I know that some of my friends agree with me on this as well. Zoom can also be very unpredictable, where unexpected issues with your audio, video, or connection could arise at any minute and prohibit you from taking in information in your classes. But to keep myself motivated, I listen to what Zach Galifianakis once said: “It’s not a man-purse. It’s called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.” I live by that mantra to this day.
- Would you reflect on Distance Learning as an effective method of teaching education?
Anonymous, senior: Yes definitely. Online classes should be a regular option at LCHS from now on.
Hannah Kiang, freshman: I definitely learn better when I am in a classroom. I find it harder to concentrate when I am behind the screen, and there are a lot of distractions at home that I just can’t control. I am also worried about planning for my upcoming years in high school. Freshman year is kind of like your experimental year, so you can plan accordingly for the following years, but it has been so different that I do not know how I am going to do that. Still, I am very grateful that I still have the opportunity to learn in some format, because I often do not realize how lucky I am to be able to learn from a distance. A lot of people do not have that technology and ability, so I understand that even though there are parts of it I do not like, it is the best we can do right now, and that is all we can do.
Anonymous, teacher: Somewhat – there are many positives including focused shortened lessons as well as many negatives in person meetings, personal collaboration, checks for understanding, testing challenges, socratic dialogues.
Anonymous, senior: It technically does teach the students. However, in person learning is far more effective as teachers are better able to help students. Right now it is really easy to fall behind and get lost in the back if you aren’t on keeping track of everything all of the time.
Ms. Sos, German teacher: This is definitely not as effective as in-person instruction, especially for a world language. The technology lag, and not seeing and hearing students in person is a big challenge.
Teagan Godby, senior: I would say Distance Learning is effective in terms of improving focus in a classroom setting and eliminating any physical distractions. However, it is not as effective as face-to-face learning due to not being able to physically be in the same room as your teacher and lack of technology reliability.
Elise Sarkissian, parent: Yes, distance learning has been the most effective method for my high schoolers, including their mental health and their focus, they are more motivated to do well, and less pressure from their peers.
Anonymous, senior: I think school is useless. We learn stuff that we will never need in the real world and I just forget everything I learn everyday. Our worth is in our tests scores. Teachers basically force everything down us, and we simply throw it up on the test, forgetting about it the next day. If our well-being was a priority, school would teach us about meaningful things such as how to deal with anxiety, how to get a job, how to buy a house, invest, and manage time well. It’s like a prison, where we are forced to stay in class no matter how we are doing mentally or physically. And how is it a positive learning environment when so many kids are scared to raise their hands in class? So much talent is wasted because the environment isn’t enriching.
- What, in your opinion, are the pros and cons of Distance Learning?
Pros: Didn’t need to buy new clothes for the school year, so probably saved a ton of money and reduced environmental risk, got to spend more time with family, shorter schedules and classes.
Cons: Ineffective talking and working in groups, demotivation, a lack of separation between work and play, rushed lunch break, procrastination, too much screen time.
Anonymous, parent: The pros are that they can continue with their daily routines and habits and don’t lose school completely. Cons are they are not learning and kids miss their school life and the problem with that is that depression, drug abuse, eating disorders and other types of mental issues are growing. I like the live format it is much better for kids’ routine and work habits. I think kids should be at school with all the health protocols needed. Kids and teens are socializing outside school; you can see the streets, parks and town center packed, so I also think it’s kind of useless. I understand the risk for the teachers and their families, and we have to take care of them, but I don’t know how they feel about the learning experience. I think it is really hard to teach kids you have never seen.
Noemi Fusco, junior: I liked that we don’t have to spend as much time in school and have more time to do homework and study. However, I feel like teachers have been assigning more homework than usual and it takes up to 5 hours to finish everything. It seems as if the teachers don’t understand that we have other classes and homework.
Ms. Munday, Orchestra teacher: I love the commute. I love when students pop on early and we have a chance to chat. I love that distance learning is broadening out our curriculum to include music history and different types of performance experiences. I miss seeing my colleagues every day. I miss seeing bunches and bunches of kids. I miss working on music together as a group and having aha moments.
Anonymous, senior: I like that people seem to be “nicer” because we interact with them less. With people going out less I have less social anxiety and there are less rumors or bullying going on. The online platform seems to be more connecting. We get to stay home and go more at our pace. My overall life balance is the best it has ever been while I am still being challenged in school the perfect amount. The only thing is that I miss my teachers.
Christopher Kurdoghlian, sophomore: The main con of distance learning for me is our inability to give live presentations. I miss presenting topics in front of the class, as it was one of my favorite things to do. Also, with distanced learning, we miss the random comments and jokes that are made in classes, that add to the engagement of the class overall. People can help one another, but on distanced learning you can’t really ask a peer for help. A pro of distanced learning is the chat and how the teacher can get everyone to respond to the question at once, as opposed to calling on one person. Also, I am upset about choir, as I miss the group singing experience that would feel so great.
Ms. Sos, German teacher: I appreciate that students can work on a shortened day at their own pace. I also do love being in my own space at home, and not commuting or running up and down steps and across campus, but miss the energy of being at school with staff and students.
Kenneth Park, sophomore: The pros are being in the comfort of your own house. The cons also includes being in the comfort of your own house. I feel like we are getting too used to this.
Ethan Flores, senior: The pros of distance learning include the ability to simply roll out of bed and start class without having to worry about what pants you’re wearing and shorter class periods. The cons include less time to interact with the teacher or peers overall, the occasional feeling of being rushed, the occasional lag on zoom meetings, and the awkward silence that follows after the teacher asks a question no one knows the answer to.
Anonymous, freshman: The pros are that we can work at home like how some adults do, which is a nice experience most people won’t experience. However, the cons outweigh the pros and I feel that we need more communication in person for school work and another con is the fact we lack exercise and outdoor activity.
Landen Pak, sophomore: Distance learning eliminates any sort of hands-on activity, which I feel like is a big thing. Science labs especially. The learning experience isn’t the same as with a teacher writing on the whiteboard…
Shamima Khaja, freshman: The Pros are that some people might be more confident on Zoom and realize that online school is for them. Some Cons are internet issues, the turning off of cameras, and the work you have to do just to turn in a worksheet.
Ava Hulett, sophomore: I think that it’s going well, much better than it was last spring. I like the way that everything is always in one place on classroom, and I like that a lot of the teachers are using different sections in the classroom now. I also am appreciating Office Hours, because it is very helpful and a great opportunity to get extra help if necessary. My only complaint is that it can be difficult sometimes with the internet, and that I miss seeing teachers and classmates in person.
Anonymous, senior: I like the shorter days, because I think it would be more difficult to stay focused if the periods were each an hour. Obviously, we don’t have things like team sports or performances, but those are dependent on public health guidelines and not our method of distance learning. I think the distance learning system that we have right now is pretty good considering all the limitations the district has to deal with.
Audra Steinbrugge, sophomore:
Pros: If you forget something at home… you didn’t forget it at home, easier to stay organized (at least for me), less demanding assignments, more time to relax
Cons: Lots of ways to get distracted and off task, going blind from staring at a computer screen for hours on end, tech issues/malfunctions, stiff class environment, RIP social life
Sarah Arcaris, junior:
A con is staring at the screen all day, which is the opposite of life.
A pro is that when I’m in a painfully boring class that I can turn off my camera and the sound and play guitar or soccer in my room while I am waiting for it to be over.
As there were 120 responses to the survey, responses were edited for the article. Additional responses are listed below for those who wish to explore even further different options of the various students, teachers, and parents of LCHS.
Anonymous, parent: I think the school, teachers, parents and students are putting a lot of effort and positive attitude towards distance learning format doing the best under the circumstances but I think that it fails the most important things about school and that is the interaction with different people, socializing and learning from your teachers. I hope we can soon resume at school learning because if not it is going to be a wasted year and for so many students it is a key year. The gap in education is getting bigger every day.
Anonymous, sophomore: I think the school has done a pretty good job with distance learning. It makes it harder to ask questions but the office hours seem to make up for it. I think overall it hasn’t been that bad, but I would still prefer to be physically at school.
Dominic Corrente, senior: I would much rather be in school than doing this. It is alright and can kind of get the job done but after doing it for more than a week or two it is not good because there is no social aspect like there is in school. It became very repetitive because you are just sitting in one chair all day and joining a zoom after zoom. There isn’t as much variety like in school.
Anonymous, soph: I like distance learning, it’s time-efficient and it helps me work at my own pace. I can get my homework done quicker because I can do it in-between classes.
Sarah Arcaris, junior: I think Distance Learning is a special opportunity in that it gives everyone a new and important perspective on life, which is a very valuable tool in education. Under “normal” conditions, it is easy to forget and not really reflect on what you’re learning.
Pros – no travel time or traffic, shorter classes, food and water easily available
Cons – less if not insufficient education (not as good as it could be), sports all pushed back, no seeing friends
I like the shorter class times and general comfort at home. I’m okay with distance learning, but I prefer school in person.
Anonymous, senior: I really like how much less stressful it is for me. I get to wake up later and I don’t actually have to get ready for school. The days being shorter means that I won’t get burnt out before the end of the day like when I’m on a much longer schedule. it means that I can get more work done because I’m more focused and less tired.