Two Lewis freshmen, two types of school


Courtesy of Yaseen Ali-Taha

Lewis freshman Yaseen Ali-Taha prefers attending hybrid school this year.

Rokea Al-Boarab, Staff Writer

The Coronavirus has affected many things in our day to day lives, one of them being school. Due to the pandemic–an event most of us had not experienced or expected, schools got canceled among many other closures. Everyone may have expected just a two-week vacation, but it’s been more than a year, and we haven’t returned to our routine. It has been a year of trying to adapt to a new learning environment and a new curriculum.

Even though we just hit the one year mark, we just started to send students back in-person. For students, our new normal is online learning. Although all students have been away from their school routines, this change can be especially hard on students starting the year at new schools because they miss out on building relations with other students and teachers. Two Lewis freshmen, part-time hybrid student Yaseen Ali-Taha and full-time virtual student Madelyn Paz-Castillo shared their experiences with The Lance.

Hybrid Learning: Freshman Yaseen Ali-Taha

Do you see any differences in teaching from before the pandemic and now?

Yeah, definitely. Before the pandemic I could go up to teachers for questions or they could come to me. Now they really can’t do that because of the covid precautions. So there’s a bit of a change between teachers. 

Do you feel safe back at school?

I do feel safe back at school. Being honest, during the pandemic, school is the only in-person activity that is really enforcing social distancing and sanitizing. I’ve been playing soccer and volunteering, and they don’t have these precautions that the school has. Or they just don’t enforce it as much.  

Since you have now experienced virtual and hybrid learning, which one do you think is more effective?

Hybrid learning is 100% more effective. In online school, many people just enter the class and leave the room or go to sleep. At home there’s no one holding you responsible like a teacher would at school. At home you can cheat on tests because there is no one enforcing rules. I find it extremely difficult to focus when there’s no one around me. It’s not about having a teacher there, but it’s about the environment around you. If you aren’t in the correct environment, it’s very hard to focus and get things done. 

Would you prefer to come into the building all four days a week?

I would prefer coming in 4 days a week. When I come into the building, I get to socialize with people I haven’t seen for a whole year. I can also get work done. Ever since I came into the building, my grades have gone up so much. For example math isn’t my strongest subject, and when I was at home, my test scores were averaging around the 80s– sometimes less, and the last virtual test I took I got around a 70%, which to me isn’t a good grade. The first day of being in the building, I took another math test, and I scored a 90%. I improved so much in just one day. I think that people now have way more missing assignments than they did last year. When you’re at home, your motivation just goes down. There is no teacher or anything. It’s like a battle between you and yourself. The only reason you would do your own work is if you were motivated and you cared. 

What made you decide to do in-person instruction?

I personally decided to go in person. I’m a little bit extroverted, and I enjoy other people’s company. I like meeting new people and talking to others. I don’t like being stuck at home 8 hours a day. I prefer to be outside and doing something. I think it’s important building relationships with your teachers. If you know a teacher very well, and they get to know you, it makes things much easier. That teacher could check up on you, and ask you about your workload. They would be more willing to help you because they know you as a person. 

How social are your classes? Are you able to catch up with friends and classmates?

This year, teachers aren’t as strict when it comes to talking in class because we all haven’t seen each other in so long. In terms of other students, it’s obvious social skills have gone down. People are less willing to talk to others. I think that 90% of kids would prefer to stay online if it wasn’t for their parents. The school is doing a good job at making it a more social environment.

Is it weird having people 6 feet apart in terms of talking or socializing?

It’s not as weird, obviously all the teachers can hear your conversations. At lunch everyone can pretty much hear you but it does depend on who you are around. If you don’t know anyone you would probably be on your phone just watching Netflix. I met a lot more new people than I thought I would this year. But it makes sense because not all my friends are at the school with me this year, so I was forced to talk to new people. I feel like people are going to end up being more social though because if you’re in a classroom with very few people then you are eventually going to be forced to talk to people. During the pandemic, I was lucky enough to have at least some interaction with others. But I know some people who other than when grocery shopping, they haven’t seen or talked to anyone in about a year. Even though I’ve seen people during this pandemic, and I would say I am a social person, it was still intimidating going to school because you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Being at home and doing online school for about a year now is the new comfort zone for most people. So when you go back in person you actually have to get up early and talk to people. 

 If you could attend school virtually next year (everyday or part-time), would you? Why?

No, I would not. Personally, my grades and social interaction are important to me. I enjoy being a good student and to be a good student you have to work hard. If I am not in the correct environment, I can’t enter a good working cycle where I can get things done and actually learn. I also like seeing my friends and meeting new people. I know some people are perfectly happy being in their rooms for, like, 10 hours a day, but that’s just something I can’t do. 

Do you have any added responsibilities at home this year that may influence your decision to return to school? 

Being at home, I definitely have siblings coming up to me asking for help, but it doesn’t make me want to go back to school. Ironically, before the pandemic, I would have to stay home more and take care of them because my parents would be working but now they work from home and it’s less responsibility on me because they are around. 


Distance Learning: Freshman Madelyn Paz-Castillo

Lewis freshman Madelyn Paz-Castillo attends school virtually but looks forward to returning in-person. (Courtesy of Madelyn Paz-Castillo)

What are some ways that help you get your work done?

During online learning, I use Google Calendar. I write all my homework and events. It’s basically my new virtual planner. Before, when we were in-person, I would use a handwritten agenda, but since I’ve been getting used to the online setting, I found more ways to write my assignments down. 

How do you manage your time around classes?

Sometimes I set timers, like how I have about fifteen minutes in between each class, so I can relax or skim some homework that I was just given. But I’ve been checking the clock a lot. Now it just seems like I have to watch the time because I have a set schedule during school. 

How does it feel to go to school while at home with your family? What, if any, distractions exist at home that keep you from paying attention to your classes or homework?

 I have three younger brothers. The oldest one is 10, and he also does online school. Sometimes we do school in the same room, so it’s hard to focus because the teachers can talk over each other. But my younger brothers are two years old and 10 months old, so it’s really distracting when they are running around or watching Cocomelon on the tv. My dad works, and sometimes my mom has to run errands, but if she does go, she tries to leave the kids sleeping so that I can focus during class. But usually during school, I have to take care of my brothers for about two hours. 

Do you feel that you are at a disadvantage doing school online?

I don’t really feel like I am at a disadvantage. There are more online kids then in-person, so when the teachers talk, it’s mainly to us. They are all usually always facing the computer. But the small decisions–like which game to play– the in-person kids decide.  

What has been your biggest challenge during this pandemic?  

My biggest challenge is learning. I am a visual learner, so I have to see it to understand it. I also ask a lot of questions, and when we’re online no one really asks questions, and so it makes me think that everyone else understands the content but me. When we were in-person, I could look around and see that other people are just as confused as me, but when I’m online, I can’t really look around at the class. It’s just different when you’re in the right setting like a classroom with a teacher. 

If you could attend school virtually next year (everyday or part-time), would you? Why?

I probably wouldn’t,  I miss in-person. Being online isn’t the same. But I would continue online if cornavirus gets worse for the safety of my family. 

Do you have any added responsibilities at home this year that may influence your decision to return to school? 

 I take care of my younger siblings a lot more than I did before. During the pandemic, my mom got corna and was left with some long-term effects, so it’s hard on her sometimes. I help her out with chores and the kids. I would still want to go back though because the kids are getting older, and they don’t need as much attention. My mom is also recovering slowly.