The first semester is always the hardest because it is a tremendous transition. It can be very overwhelming. Since this year is online, students have probably felt that more unmotivated and lonely than anything (IvyWise, Fall). Instead of being out in the school, enjoying the “high school experience” students are stuck at a computer, staring at a screen for 7 hours.
Freshmen thought they would get the high school freshmen experience this year. Joining clubs, going to football games, etc. However, this year was different. Little did they know, March 13th, 2020 would be their last day of in person school. Imagine being a freshman at an IB school. Most elementary/middle schools did not prepare freshmen for this difficult curriculum. Therefore, it would be hard for new freshmen to adjust to their environment. Considering the school year is virtual, most students’ mental health has gotten worse. Thus, I interviewed two students on their bad experiences of the first semester.
- How was your first semester? Was it stressful? Was it hard?
Response #1: Overall, my first semester here was so-so. The IB grading system was a big adjustment for me, but I got better grades than I thought I would. There were nights where I stayed up late at night doing summatives though that’s nothing out of the ordinary for me. I felt some relief knowing that formatives do not get counted in one’s quarter grade. That definitely saved my grade in a couple of classes!
Response #2: It was hard and stressful. Not necessarily because of the content of the work, but because of my difficulty sustaining focus in an online setting and pushing myself.
- Do you believe that if your freshmen year was in person, it would have been better? Do you think you could have done better?
Response #1: I honestly don’t think my freshman year would have been that much better if it was in person. It’s disappointing that I got to miss out on meeting new people and getting the full “high school experience”; however, I feel as though it would have been much more difficult for me to transition from my old school. The city’s online schedule is considerably easier than its in-person one. Honestly, I could not imagine starting the school day at 7:45, having a 20-minute lunch break, and having all seven classes in one day. I already know I will struggle with accommodating to that schedule once we don’t have to do online learning.
Response #2: I do believe I would have done better if my first semester was in person. Getting up and going through a routine of seeing other students and teachers in person helps my brain switch into “school mode”. But this is just not possible to the same degree during virtual learning.
- Name 1 bad experience you had with your 1st semester?
Response #1: I have had a few school-related bad experiences, but one, in particular, had to deal with internet problems. One week in December, my internet was acting so weird. It just stopped working every couple of days around lunchtime and could not be rebooted. After waiting for like 35 minutes, which went well into class, it surprisingly came back on. My teacher is not lenient when it comes to being late for class, so naturally, I let them know and asked if my parents needed to be contacted. They said they understood and there were no worries, but then gave me an unexcused tardy!
Response #2: I’ve had bad experiences where teachers are clearly struggling to cover all topics they’re supposed to. Some teachers are also not communicating our assignments and class expectations very well over the computer.
- Do you prefer online, or in-person?
Response #1: In general, there are a number of benefits to both online learning and in-person school. When I was doing in-person school, I was able to connect with my peers and teachers. It is challenging to do this with online learning. Sure, students are encouraged to turn on their cameras and talk in the chat, but this requires a certain confidence that wasn’t needed before. Interacting with others happens naturally in in-person school, but that is not easy when we are learning online. It’s also hard for me to stay on the computer all day (especially when my internet is acting up). However, I’ve often felt as though I’ve had to put on a fake face for in-person school. If you’re having a bad day, there is no hiding it if you have to be seen by everyone. So, which one is better: online school or in-person school? I have my opinions about both, but I’m going to wait and see how the end of this school year turns out before coming to a conclusion 🙂
Response #2: I prefer in person. It helps me stay focused and I enjoy seeing my friends.
- Would you say your mental health has gotten better or worse? If it has gotten worse, do you think 1st semester is the cause of that? Explain.
Response #1: I would say my mental health has gotten worse since the beginning of the school year. This time last year was rough for me, so that might have something to do with it. I don’t think this semester has necessarily impacted my mental health, at least concerning school work. I tend to experience this kind of stress even without the new challenges of online learning. Among many others, it is difficult for me to keep a normal sleep schedule. Every day is starting to feel like the same for me (not to be dramatic).
Response #2: My mental health has gotten worse. I’m unmotivated, fatigued, and bored all the time. I don’t think it’s directly because of online school, but it certainly hasn’t helped.
While reading their responses, it is noticeable that person #1 prefers virtual learning and person #2 prefers in-person learning. Person #1 prefers virtual learning because it is easier for them to keep up with their classes and their teachers. To them, the virtual learning schedule is much easier to accommodate, rather than the regular city college schedule. However, person #2 prefers in-person learning because they feel as though when they are in a school setting, their mind is in a “school mood”. But at home, they feel rather unmotivated.
The one thing both students had in common is that their mental health state has gotten worse since virtual learning started. Person #1 feels that every day is beginning to feel like the same, and Person #2 feels bored all of the time. They both feel that everyday is mundane, Many sources believe the same thing, in this source, the evidence stated, “The toll of the virus, isolation, increased workloads, and other associated effects are rising among many students, staff and faculty members” (Schroeder, 2020). The statement implies that isolation and online are not good for the mind. When one is isolated all the time, their body and mind begin to become used to this feeling; it starts to feel like every single day is exactly the same. Nothing new is happening. The same routine over and over and over again. Wake up, join the first class, join the next class, then the next, and the next.
In conclusion, the freshman experience is not as expected. However, freshmen hopefully still have the opportunity to experience the high school experience as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Even though it is hard, time will tell if it was worth it.