By Vivian Kaleta, Copy Editor
In March 2020, COVID-19 forced Payton students to stay at home. Without preparation, teachers had to resort to sending assignments and students completing them by the end of the day. The 2020-2021 school year started fully online, with teachers holding live classes over video calls with their classes. Later in the school year, hybrid learning was adopted at Payton, with many students still choosing to stay fully remote. As this school year comes to an end, Payton students from every grade are reflecting over the online year.
Despite the remote setting, teachers tried to replicate a normal classroom for their students to the best of their ability. Teachers encouraged cameras and microphones on Google Meets that allowed the class to actually see and hear each other. They had also implemented collaborative activities like Jamboard that allowed students to work together on class activities as they would in-person.
Even with online platforms such as Google Meet, it was not necessarily guaranteed that the class would engage as well as they would in-person. When asked about online participation, the majority of Payton students agreed that it wasn’t the best, but was fairly decent. “No classes were extremely quiet,” said Annabel Helmer-Lynn ‘24. “I had a few that had good participation.” Online group work, a large aspect of class activity, was a different story.
Overall, students’ experiences in breakout rooms have not been so positive. “It was generally pretty awkward unless it was with people that I knew or got to choose for the breakout,” Savi Smith ‘22 said. Smith also described the rooms as sometimes being “very dead.”
Students not only struggled academically, but mentally as well. Many Payton students said they had lost motivation to complete tasks, especially during the middle of the school year. “[Online learning] made me pretty lazy,” said Coltrane Douglas ‘24. Generally speaking, students’ mental health had declined. COVID-19 had put a strain on students’ social lives, and numerous freshmen specifically mentioned how it was tough trying to make new friends and get used to the Payton community through a remote setting. “As a freshman, I think one of the toughest parts was not having the same sense of friendship and community that a normal year might have contributed to,” Megha Khemka ‘24 said.
Some people said the pandemic inspired personal development. “I actually grew a lot as a person.” Nat Cavallo ‘22 said. “It’s been difficult to socialize but the friendships I have kept up have grown stronger. Overall, a time of healing and peace.”
When asked about the overall experience of online learning, no student had one definite answer. Across all grade levels, students expressed that the experience was neither good nor bad.
“The online experience overall wasn’t horrible,” Juliana Mokaya ‘24 said, “I still learned a lot this year. Maybe not as much as I would in-person, fulltime, but I am still grateful that I was able to learn.”
It has especially been devastating to the seniors, who ended their last year of high school at Payton in such an abnormal way. When asked to describe the school year in one word, Sophie Donnellan ‘21 answered “chaotic.” Several others agreed, or answered similarly to Donnellan. Although her senior year wasn’t the best experience, Donnellan gave a piece of advice to Payton students for the next school year: “Ask questions and be authentically you!”