By Bella Littleton
Art by Ella Benitone
Freshman year alone is already a difficult adjustment for most students, but with the pandemic bringing changes to every aspect of life, this year’s freshmen, the class of 2024, are experiencing a uniquely challenging transition to upper school. Not only do they have to adjust to the difficult demands of high school, but they also have to deal with the odd rigors of online learning.
The freshmen had to make the decision of whether to go to school in-person or stay at home. Some freshmen like Rian Tyler (9) were curious about how the school year would be structured. Tyler said that her family was concerned about “how the school would handle social distancing and [wanted to see] if any cases [of COVID-19] would come up.” Ultimately, Tyler and her family decided that starting the year remotely would be safest, at least until the safety precautions at school proved effective.
Other fully remote students like Jourdan Russell (9) said their families considered infection rates in Shelby County and in other schools that had attempted reopening when deciding to keep their students at home.
The learning experience differs, of course, for students who do choose to learn from home full-time.
Tyler said, “Learning remotely has made me more organized and focused. I have learned to tune out distractions and get more work done.”
“Online learning gives me more freedom in my schedule, and it allows me [to] approach schoolwork in a more relaxed fashion,” Russell said.
However, online learning is not entirely without unique challenges when it comes to communication.
“In all honesty, I have found communication between teachers and classmates is more difficult … real-time discussion in class is irreplaceable,” Russell said. “At first, I found [remote learning] more stressful, but like anything, it was an adjustment, and I had to adapt.”
Some freshmen, like Ella Curlin (9), have found online learning difficult and chosen to return to in-person classes.
“Staying remote for almost an entire month made learning much more difficult than it would have been in a classroom setting,” Curlin said. “Coronavirus precautions doubled the adjustments that were necessary for us to get used to ninth grade, as not only do we have to get used to being in high school, but also learning online and … [in a] socially distant school environment.”
Other students chose to attend school in person from the start of the school year, bypassing some of the complications of full-time remote learning.
One freshman learning in-person, Lilly Longworth (9), said, “Of course [communication is easier], you have everyone and everything there in person, not on a screen. You can also directly ask teachers questions without having to wait for an email.”
Another in-person freshman, Sarah Moon (9) found hybrid learning, especially her in-person weeks, to be similar to full-time in-person learning like a normal school year. She said, “[The COVID-19 in-person protocol] doesn't really affect my relationships in class because the only difference is that we have masks and we are a little farther apart than usual.”
But, of course, this is not the freshman year the class of 2024 expected.
Russell said, “High school has changed, and my expectations have changed alongside it. This is a far cry from how I imagined high school [being], but I still feel like a freshman – or freshwoman – who is figuring it out day by day.”
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