Last night at dinner I told my family that I was going to have to take a break from social media. I had finally hit my limit of crazy when it comes to the discussion of our local high school reopening. While I realize there is no easy path to making this happen, it must. The reasons for not opening no longer make any sense to me.
As I was on my soapbox at the dinner table, I watched my daughter Annie’s body language completely change. When I asked her what was up, she said that no one has really asked her what she thinks of the high school’s current learning environment. Yes, she’s filled out a survey, and yes, teachers have checked in on her mental health, but no one has specifically asked her if she’d like to be back at school or not.
Annie is a sophomore at Lake Forest High School and she’ll be embarrassed for me to say this, but she’s a great student and very self-motivated. She chose to do the hybrid option at the high school this year, with the understanding was that she would have two days of remote learning and two days of in-person instruction. Much to her disappointment, she only has one teacher that has chosen to be in-person on her hybrid days.
I asked Annie if she’d be willing to give us her take on the current state of things at the high school and she did. Below are her answers to the questions I asked.
AMS: What has the last year been like for you?
Annie: I would say last school year before spring break was super fun for me. I enjoyed going to school, seeing my friends, and the workload was manageable. This past year, however, all aspects that make school enjoyable have been taken away, and everything is strictly work. And at least for me, the workload is overwhelming more often than not. It is very hard to stay motivated to do it all.
AMS: Do you feel like you’re learning as much remotely as you did in person?
Annie: I know I am learning, but it takes 3x as much effort to learn one concept compared to last year when I was in the building with my teachers. And for most of my classes, I feel the need to look up additional YouTube videos on what I learned in class in order to fill in the gaps. So no, not as much, and it is very hard to learn when staring at a screen 6+ hours a day.
AMS: What has been the hardest part of learning remotely?
Annie: The hardest part is that all of the fun things that made school enjoyable have been taken away. Hybrid hasn’t done much to help the problem either because for most students, hybrid is remote learning in the school building, and that is not what I signed up for. Remote learning is all work and no friends, no school events, nothing. Hybrid is the same, too. I never get to be with my friends at school because their last names fall at the beginning of the alphabet and mine is at the end. Also, it is very hard when you feel you are struggling in a class because the extra help resources, like the MRC, are just not the same online as they are in person.
AMS: What is the one thing you wish those in charge of reopening the schools understood?
Annie: I wish they understood that we need to be surrounded by friends, have sports, and have school events like dances to look forward to in order to stay motivated to do the work. We only get four years of high school, and everyone says it goes by in the blink of an eye, and now one of those years is completely down the drain for me. I don’t want to look back on my time in high school and think it was mostly behind a screen.
AMS: What would you think if you heard that your junior year was going to look like your sophomore year?
Annie: If my junior year is a continuation of this year, I will be extremely upset. I saw how much fun Eddie [her brother] had in high school with his friends and all the fun stuff and weird things he got to do in school, and I want the same. Everyone at LFHS is getting gipped right now. If junior year is like this for me, I will be in my third year of high school with only 3/4 of a year of a normal high school experience.
I just share Annie’s answers in the hopes of shining a light on another perspective when it comes to reopening our schools. Our family LOVES Lake Forest High School. Annie is our fourth child to attend there. My husband and I took a leap from the Catholic education we grew up in to send our kids to the public school and our expectations have been exceeded every step of the way until this last year. The pandemic caught us all off guard, and grace must be given for that. But it’s time to figure this out. We have countless examples in our neighborhoods of schools that have reopened successfully and it’s inexcusable that an institution of Lake Forest’s caliber and resources has not.