From Paula – Here’s what blended learning looks like to my high school student. We made the choice to send Ainsley back to school in person this Fall. She has been back for a bit more than two weeks and is in grade eleven. Here’s how it’s going so far. These are her words.
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On Blended Learning and High School Fall 2020
By Ainsley Schuck
So, here’s the thing. I am going to school during Covid-19 in person. My days go like this: two days in school and three days at home, and the next week is three days in class and two at home. The term for this is blended learning.
Not Your Average School Year
Listen, nobody was more surprised than me when Ontario schools abruptly closed in March due to Coronavirus. Also, I was shocked that I missed school, because typically I am not a huge fan. So when the Ontario government announced we’d return to school I was a bit worried but mostly happy to hear we’d be going back.
New School Terms
This school year is not your average school year and suddenly we have all these new terms to use too: blended learning, hybrid, cohort, synchronous and asynchronous. A few times everyone here in my home has been frustrated and said: I don’t even know what asynchronous means. You get my point. It is a weird year to be in high school in person.
Back to School In Person or Online School?
I know many parents and students were divided over whether to go back to school in person or do school online. A few people I know, other teens with an IEP or a learning disability felt like there was really only one option. Many of us need that in person face time with teachers.
Getting My Schedule
We all need to check the class D2L site often and check our emails too. Communication has been pretty good so far, but it took forever to get my schedule at the beginning of the semester/ Octomester and that was super frustrating.
Here’s What I Like About Blended Learning So Far
It may seem like a lot of work crammed into a very short period of time. It is, but honestly I am adjusting and I kind of like some parts of the blended learning classroom.
The Remote Days
I like having days at home, because the remote days kind of feel like a mental health day for me. If you working at home, I still log in at 8 a.m. for attendance, so I am up at a good time. In fact, I actually feel more comfortable at home and can wear what I want so, I take advantage of that on remote learning days during this blended learning school year.
So, for me the blended approach is working right now. I get to choose where I work at home basically.
At School Days
In my classroom, there are no windows right now, because we are in the computer lab. The computers have been removed but, it feels kind of like a prison with no windows and it’s a bit depressing. So, by the end of my school day, I am ready to get out of there.
Wearing Masks in the Classroom
I thought wearing masks at school might be hard but it’s not. We are just sitting all day, so to be honest it is not as hard as I thought. It’s not like we are sweating, running around or racing from class to class.
I am a little anxious about what mask I wear to school and I feel like sometimes that’s the thing that could trigger bullying now. Your choice of mask is up to you as long as they cover your nose and mouth well. I sometimes wear Harry Potter or Pride masks because I like them. They are comfortable and they fit well.
Little Social Interaction
They spent a lot of time on the first day back talking about safety protocol. If you don’t wear a mask, you will get a verbal warning to get your mask on. You get one warning and, by the second warning, you go home for the day. If you actually get a third warning, you get suspended.
We don’t talk much at school.
I am better able to focus because there’s less group work and fewer distractions right now while at school doing blended learning. If everyone was talking at once, I feel like people would be removing their masks. Less talking equals less headaches for me and better focusing. Those are two things I struggle with normally and have to often leave school in normal years due to extreme noise and headaches. That’s a sensory thing.
Right now, the sensory stuff at school seems to be a bit better.
I Leave at Lunch
When I come home at lunch time, the work is manageable.
We go through until lunch and then we have study hall. Students stay for study hall if they take the bus home or need extra help. Really, unless you are reading, most of the work is getting done in the class. When I have math in a few months then I might need to remain for study hall. Right now though I come home and read or tackle homework questions. Sometimes that looks like my Mom helping me get through the books because we have to read them quickly, in a short time.
The Class Numbers
The number of kids in the class is much better actually. My teacher is amazing this year and relates well to the class. There are 16 students in my cohort and that seems reasonable. Our class is split. My cohort goes to school every Thursday and Friday and every other Wednesday, for instance, while the other group logs in and does work at home. Then we flip.
Having One Classroom a Day for Five Weeks
I actually love having just one class a day. In a regular day, before the pandemic we would have four classes each semester and that can be super stressful. That’s a lot of work to juggle. If we had four courses during a pandemic, and needed to switch classrooms several times, we would be super anxious moving around the school.
We wouldn’t necessarily know what the teacher’s bubble was either, so this works better in my opinion. Kind of glad I am in one spot for the day when at school.
Seems to Be Easier For Me
Not having to focus on four subjects at once is kind of a good thing. I suck at multi-tasking, so in a usual year having four subjects at once is a lot for me. If I listen to music and work, I can’t do both, for instance.
It’s the ADHD, I think.
Fewer Distractions Right Now
There are fewer distractions right now and less group work, so I feel like I have the right amount of time at school. This sounds ridiculous, because the speed of the courses is like summer school, so I realize that makes no sense as each subject is going so much faster than it used to. But I only have to focus on one subject – right now that is English and I love English.
Easier to Juggle Assignments
Sometimes, during a typical year, I forget to do assignments because of the volume of assignments and all the planning required. I have FASD and ADHD and an IEP and sometimes school is hard work in a very busy, noisy environment.
Less to Forget
Right now, there’s nothing else to forget about. There’s only one assignment at a time for the most part and one book/ topic to study, so you have hours upon hours to work on that topic each day.
A Few Kooky Adjustments
There’s no leaving and going to the bathroom to hang out with friends because if you do that, then you get paged to head back to class.
“Jessica, YOUR bathroom break is over. Please return to your class!”
Without getting too personal or gross, I am just going to say I don’t care really because I never go to the washroom at school. In the pre-pandemic days too many people vaped or were just hanging out in there. No, thanks.
How it Feels at Times
It feels a little like a maximum-security prison at times, but for the most part it is working.
Blended Learning 2020
Looking ahead, I feel like this year I will have better grades at each individual subject. Blended learning doesn’t look exactly as we thought it would but there are a lot of reasons I am liking it this year so far.