The Disconnect

Virtual learning is proving difficult for teachers and students to connect, while Prince William County Schools releases more overwhelming information.

The+Disconnect

Instead of raising hands, we now unmute ourselves or type in a chat box as participation in classes. Some teachers have even come to prefer cameras and microphones off, to avoid distractions! Paul, a Hylton sophomore shares “I don’t usually have my camera on unless a few other students do. Most times I tend to use the chatbox”. Though virtual communication methods are nothing new, having to use them three or four times a day and four times per week has its learning curves. Because of the new communication methods during class, participation may be affected in certain classes. Mikki, another sophomore says, “Participation in my classes varies depending on the day. My weekday classes almost everyone shows up, especially JROTC and Algebra.”

Prince William County Schools revealed at the most recent school board meeting, that middle and high school students will not be returning to school for the second quarter. However, students like Mikki, feel as though “almost all classes need to be in person for success”. Others like Paul, are concerned that “our schedules could change and bus times will be different”. These disruptions of our education has students forming personal opinions and inference about what school will look like if we do return to school this 2020-21 school year or beyond.

Paul shares his opinion on the hardest and his least favorite part of virtual school: “In my opinion, the hardest part of virtual learning is the course load. Teachers seem to be assigning a lot of work, and I understand that they lost time last year and they lost a few weeks this year, but just like they have families, so do we, and we all value that important time.”

Mikki recognizes her most difficult classes as “classes that are meant to be in person through a screen.” Her classes most affected by the difficulties of virtual learning are “JROTC [because] we can’t march online, in choir we have to mute ourselves when we sing, and in HPE we just log our activity. I learned a lot of communication skills during this time, but the benefits don’t nearly outweigh the cons.”

Micah, a Hylton class of 2020 senior graduating this spring, says her least favorite part about virtual learning is that “the classes aren’t as fun as they can be like it would in person also there could be a lot of complications.” Many students and teachers share similar frustrations on the difficulties of WiFi, time management, and computer issues. 

Fortunately, assistant principal, Mr. Jones hosts “Real Talk Thursdays” every Thursday on Zoom to have confidential conversations with students about virtual learning concerns and questions. The counseling department has also taken the lead in helping students navigate through virtual learning.

Our staff writer also interviewed Ms. Groves, a math teacher who teaches Algebra 1, Algebra 2 Trig, and Pre-Calc, essentially all grade levels. Ms. Grove’s least favorite part of virtual learning is “not making connections with students”. Through Zoom and the scrunched lesson times, there is little space for getting to know students on a deeper level than taking notes or going over the homework. Mondays and afterschool times have been utilized for virtual office hours and asynchronous assignments; Ms. Groves says that “some, not a lot and a low percentage of students” attend these virtual hours outside of class. 

Virtual learning began a mere month ago, virtual communications are trying their best to keep students and teachers engaged. Despite the almost negative atmosphere of loneliness and struggle to accustom to the virtual setting even as we head towards the second quarter, teachers and students must both be hopeful and involved in the future.