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Week One: Wake up, put on your mask, and begin your daily commute to WA for a week of in-person learning alongside your teachers and friends.
Week Two: Wake up, eat breakfast, and turn on your computer for a remote week of learning either through numerous Google Meets or completing asynchronous work before the end of each day.
Repeat this cycle once week 2 is over, and you have an outline of a hybrid learning student’s basic schedule.
As a hybrid learning student myself, my weeks have followed this exact cycle between hands-on and remote learning styles. I spend one week at school participating in my lessons live with teachers and peers, and the next participating through a computer screen or working and assignments by myself. Through my experiences over the past month, I have been pleasantly surprised by how the school has handled the in-person scheduling, despite the many barriers that COVID-19 has provided, especially compared to last year’s fully remote schedule. However, I still feel there are aspects of the hybrid learning schedule that need to be modified for future use.
While at school, it is clear which classes students are supposed to attend for the day, as well as their expectations for learning. The periods between classes also allow me to catch up with friends and get a bit of fresh air if needed. Particularly, getting to see my friends a little bit each day has served as a piece of normalcy during this time and has greatly helped with my mental health.
However, I can’t help but feel cautious whenever I step outside, or even when I’m walking down the halls. During my weeks in school, I’ve noticed that students do not always keep their masks on, or maintain six feet of distance when going outside. Even though my friends and I keep a safe distance and continue to wear our masks outdoors, the fact that other students around me are not doing so makes me uncomfortable.
Additionally, although we have one-way hallways to better ensure that students maintain six feet of distance, it can still become crowded in the hallways, especially if students are trying to get to class after talking with their friends for most of the break. With the added knowledge that a fair amount of people take their masks off while talking to said friends, the shortened distance between students in the halls doesn’t make me feel any safer.
I often worry about whether the students not wearing masks are interacting with any other kids that my friends and I share classes with, as well as who they are in contact with outside of school. If they are not practicing healthy habits inside and outside of school, there is a high chance that the virus could spread to many throughout the building, including those in my peers, my teachers and friends, and possibly myself. Although I’m sure WA had the best intentions in mind while creating twelve-minute passing periods, I think that there should either be stricter rules in place regarding mask-wearing during the breaks, or that the time should be shortened to ensure that students aren’t irresponsible with their friends.
For clarification, so far in the school year, I have never felt unsafe in a classroom with my teachers or thought that Westford Academy was not taking the pandemic seriously. I fear that unless adjustments are made to the current passing periods, many innocent students will inevitably be in danger of catching COVID-19 from those acting carelessly.
Additionally, during the weeks that I am remote, learning can be very difficult. It is not always clear what time I should be online for each of my classes, and when I should be working on my asynchronous assignments, as all of my teachers have a different schedule and varied expectations for me. Compared to when I’m in school and know exactly where I should be at what time, at home it can be overwhelming having to keep up with what time my teachers require me to stream in during the day. Some require me to meet only in the mornings, others only in the afternoons, and a few during both the morning and afternoon periods.
Sometimes when I attend classes remotely while there are students in-person, I can feel shoved to the side in favor of those who are in the class, which can make sessions very awkward. However, whenever I attend sessions in the afternoons where the in-person students are either absent or everyone is required to attend the Google Meet no matter their pod, I feel much more comfortable and included in the class since the teacher has their full attention set on those streaming in from home.
Overall, I feel that the hybrid learning model is for the most part a good scheduling alternative considering the strange circumstances of this pandemic. However, I do believe that there are some problems that need to be addressed and modified, either for the safety of the students or their general convenience. I am also in no way attempting to criticize the teachers and staff at WA as I know that they are all trying their hardest to make learning during this time as normal and engaging as possible, which I am incredibly thankful for. The purpose of this opinion is to point out some of my concerns and the drawbacks that I have observed during my time as a hybrid student as well as some suggestions I’ve come up with.