Virtual Learning Takes a Toll on Freshmen

Ella+Notestine%2C+freshmen%2C+completes+her+school+day+at+her+desk.+%22It%27s+hard+to+judge+%5Bthe+MHS+high+school+experience%5D+based+on+four+hours+of+looking+at+a+chromebook%2C%22+Notestine+said.

Media by Marin Ellington

Ella Notestine, freshmen, completes her school day at her desk. “It’s hard to judge [the MHS high school experience] based on four hours of looking at a chromebook,” Notestine said.

For students transitioning from middle school to high school such as freshman Kennedy Payne, an increased workload is to be expected, but the fast pace of classes on a quarter system has added even more.

MHS students returned to school this fall with classes moving much faster to fit in all the subject material within a quarter system. 

“I don’t think I was prepared in the slightest,” Payne said. “I am a lot more anxious now and a little more stressed.” 

Payne also struggles with staying actively engaged in class because she hasn’t met her teachers or classmates anywhere other than through a screen. 

“I honestly don’t feel like I know my teachers at all,” Payne said. “I wish we would have had a day where we just got to know everybody.”  

Beyond the increased workload, a virtual schedule also eliminates the socialization aspect that comes from in-person schooling. Students, such as freshmen Cece Alexander, are dealing with the disappointment of their high school experience falling far short of their expectations.

“I am bummed because high school is supposed to be the best years of your life, and freshmen are missing out on that,” Alexander said. 

Annual events, such as the freshmen social or Homecoming, have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions, and, for many, the traditional high school experience they expected is not happening.

Despite the circumstances, however, students are staying positive. 

“My teachers are doing their best in a bad situation, and I think they’re doing well,” Alexander said.

Teachers are not the only ones working to help freshmen students, though. Freshmen Principal Dr. Julie Spurgeon has been staying in contact with her students and working to give them a positive experience despite the circumstances.

The virtual environment, while we can see our kids, doesn’t allow for that natural interaction of the human spirit.”

— Dr. Julie Spurgeon, Freshman Principal

She has implemented “The Freshman Feast” where Zoom meetings are held with a group of roughly 20 freshmen at a time over breakfast or lunch to not only help her get to know them, but to help them get to know each other as well. 

“In a normal school setting, I would have used before school, during lunch, passing periods, classes and after school activities to get to know my freshmen,” Spurgeon said. “Since that wasn’t possible, I decided to do the Freshman Feast.”

Though a lot of effort is being put into communication with students and their families, Dr. Spurgeon is not unaware of the toll virtual learning is taking on some students. 

“The virtual environment, while we can see our kids, doesn’t allow for that natural interaction of the human spirit,” Spurgeon said. “They aren’t experiencing the physical aspects of high school.”

Resource options such as office hours and counseling opportunities are being provided to make up for the lack of face to face communication.

“I’m proud of the Rockwood School District and the curriculum team, along with our staff, for digging in deep and igniting our virtual environment to the best of their ability,” Spurgeon said. “ I will be excited to have the students back in person as will the staff. We truly miss our kids.”