Thoughts on the First Week of Remote Learning

Monday, September 28, 2020

I want to go on record to say that the new remote learning model has pleasantly surprised me. I went into this school year expecting remote learning to be a joke, only to be completely wrong. Although poorly rolled out by the NYC DOE, classes have gone back to some sense of normalcy.

Synchronous Instruction

This area is where I feel the NYC DOE utterly failed for the 2020 spring term. Synchronous instruction is the saving grace that remote learning desperately needed.

The most infuriating aspect of remote learning the last term was the lack of teacher instruction: most classes had just 80 minutes of synchronous instruction per week. On top of the limited class time, student attendance was optional. One can only imagine how bad of an idea this must have been, and in practice, it was worse than I could have imagined.

As a student, this was extremely frustrating. I ended up teaching myself for Precalculus and AP Physics I. Sure, I was able to learn myself in these classes just fine, but there were a lot of kids that didn't fair as well. I can't count the number of times I ended up in late-night discord calls with friends helping one another figure physics classwork.

On the bright side, class instruction is a thing again and has made remote learning feel like school. Now that we're all stuck in hour-long calls, the pace at which we cover material has gotten back to the status quo. Kids now have the chance to ask teachers questions during class, and overall it feels like everyone understands the material much better. Best of all, teachers can no longer escape and forget about their students (you know who you are and for shame).

Social Interaction

Probably what I missed most about regular classes was social interaction. I found myself cooped up alone in my room, longing for any social contact. At one point, I was nervously texting a handful of people every hour or so in the hopes of getting a reply. It wasn't a fun time, and in the end, it only made people want to talk less.

With synchronous class, you get to hear other people, see other people, feel like you're not staring into a black lifeless void. Even though not everyone can or is comfortable enough to turn on their webcam, I have my full respect for those that do. I love seeing your faces, and it makes this difficult time a lot less stressful. The way I see it, the more of us that turn on our cameras/use our microphones, the less awkward it will feel.

On the topic of teachers, I love that I can get an instant reaction from them. It's an absolute joy to yet again have teacher-student interaction. The class feels lively, and at times I even forget I'm not at school. But with anything live, I can't wait till something goes hilariously wrong. I've already had my fair share of teachers screen sharing private emails, but I think it's only going to get better from here on out with the insanity.

The Unfortunate Reality

From all that I've written, you might falsely assume that remote learning has been some godsent done correctly the second time around. The sad truth is, I'm one of the lucky ones. I have access to a quiet room, computer, and stable internet connection. Along with the resources at home, Brooklyn Tech was also far more prepared compared to other schools in the city.

I can't imagine how detrimental it must be to your education if you lack any one of these, but the sad reality is most students do. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the education gap between the rich and the poor. An entire generation is now at risk of falling behind permanently. I can't begin to wrap my head about the implications of such a thing, but it scares me to death. Only one thing is known for sure, the longer that this pandemic continues, the wider the inequality gap will grow.