2020 was the first year that Chicago Public Schools solely relied on remote learning. Students and teachers were thrown into a remote learning format with no prior experience in the fourth quarter of the school year. At the time Whitney Young followed a relaxed 4 class block schedule in which each class lasted only an hour. Moving into the 2020-2021 school year, though, the schedule and the teacher all had to adapt to a new schedule and commit themselves to the remote learning setup.
Remote learning has many positives and negatives but is overall a lackluster experience. Most of the benefits of remote learning come from having more free time. For example, Ethan Nakashima ’21, a current senior, commented, “I can wake up later for class.” Another senior, Andres Rios ’21, highlighted that he had “no more wasted time traveling.” Just in the mornings alone, students get hours back in sleep thanks to remote learning and the ability to attend class anywhere. Even in between classes, students have more flexibility with their free time, like lunch and advisory, since they are at home. Proving this point, Magaret Meyers ’21 remarked, “I was able to spend more time on hobbies that I did not get to enjoy during in-person learning” and Emma Young ’21 said, “I can go for a run or on a bike during my lunch break instead of staying near the school.”
With all these time-saving benefits though there are more significant negatives. The biggest drawback is the utter lack of social interaction. As teenagers, it is extremely unnatural to have ZERO interactions with others excluding your family. These days students don’t have the opportunities to start random conversations with their friends face to face in a classroom, although many students find themselves on FaceTime, Discord, and other social media apps to talk during school. Supporting these sentiments, Kimberly Vu-Smith ’21 commented, “It’s pretty lonely only seeing people through a screen… there’s no one I can physically interact with,” and Senna Jekenu said, “Can not move around the city with friends, can not meet new people.” The barrier of screens also makes group work much harder to implement as well. This disrupts the setups of many classes. Many students simply don’t have the motivation to focus and participate in class causing them to fall behind. Sarah Zhao ’21 highlighted, “It’s hard to pay attention to a screen for that long, making it hard to learn.” Similarly, David Furst ’21 also thought that remote learning made it difficult to focus, writing, “It is sometimes difficult to learn through a screen, and maintaining focus is more challenging.” As a student and teenager, the main priority should be to learning the content and socializing with others. Remote learning, despite benefitting students by giving them more free time, eventually hurts them more as they lose track of their courses and struggle to find social interaction through their screens.