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Back to In-Person School: Advice

With talks of a potential COVID-19 vaccine circulating, many parents and students wonder what coming back to in-person school will look like.

For many students, online school was a difficult transition. One student in the Pathway Foundation Survey 2020 found that “Technical difficulties get in the way of lessons,” showing that online communication is hindered by unique problems. Students from lower-income backgrounds found obtaining video chatting services could be financially taxing. Another anonymous respondent agreed with personal and financial difficulties, saying, “I don’t think work should be graded because different people have different access to resources and family priorities.” And to top it all off, 70.5% of students in the sample study found that online learning was less effective than in-person classes.

Online school brought up another host of uninvited problems. For students who came to school for respite from bad home life, the new medium quickly became a stressor, rather than a fix to the ongoing pandemic’s impact on education. Personal life and academic success became intertwined to a point of non-distinction, till clash was inevitable.

Given this, transitioning back to in-person will be both a welcome and unwelcome change.

For students who have grown used to the ability to mute and hide their video, adapting to discussion and group work in the classroom will be a source of dread for some introverts. The versatility of online lessons, say a class recording that can be watched in bed, will not be present in the classroom. Students will have to be more attentive and active once school transitions back.

The toughest change will be focusing on learning. Online school’s hectic workload has resulted in a hyper-focus on good grades, and the easiest way to get them. This involves cheating on everything, ranging from small 5-point quizzes to 200-point finals. Online has given students who cheat more opportunities to do so. The students who don’t cheat are forced to cram random facts and theories in their brains every week, which will result in in-person school being a drastically unfamiliar environment.

Here's some advice to adapt to in-person learning:

  1. Go to office hours. Go to office hours every single day when school starts in full force. Going to office hours may be seen as something that’s done by “dumb kids,” but in reality, it’s done by smart students. Not only do these visits foster good relationships between students and teachers (which becomes relevant in college, especially), it clears up any conceptual misunderstandings the student may not know they had earlier. Teachers are excellent at their jobs, and they want to encourage learning. Even if a student asks a simple question with a yes or no answer, a good teacher will explain it with evidence and reasoning, all in an easily understandable format. This will be crucial when coming back to an environment where learning is the primary focus, not cramming information.

  1. Create study schedules for different subjects. They should have timetables; subjects of harder degree should have more fleshed out timetables, whereas easier subjects can be loosely outlined with no problem. The schedule should also have a built-in time frame ranging anywhere from a small homework assignment to weighty projects. To follow the schedule, set goals. Once a goal is reached, have a reward at hand (ex. chocolate). This helps maintain motivation in a rigorous in-person school setting.

  1. Set aside sacred break time (particularly time away from the screen) every day. Make this non-negotiable. Mental health is a priority.

  1. Meet with school counselors (it can be anywhere between five minutes to an hour or two) to talk. It can be about menial things, like what your favorite TV shows are, or problems you’re encountering. Counselors are there to HELP and going to talk to them should not be stigmatized when mental health is key to a healthy in-person academic life.

All in all, remember that even if a transition is hard, it prepares you for the future. You got this, future in-person students!

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