Remote learning environment poses new challenges for Maine South students

Senior Tara Murphy prepares a mock grocery store lesson for her Special Education students. Unable to go on typical field trips this year, the Special Education department has to be creative when it comes to lesson planning. (Photo by Natalia Kuppers)

By Amalia Laskaris and Kristen Meyer, Editors-in-chief

In each of the past four years, Maine South has implemented a different daily schedule with high aspirations that students would reap the benefits of these changes. This year is no different with the virtual learning schedule. Beginning with a shortened eight-period Monday schedule, and continuing with a four-period block schedule Tuesday through Friday, students spend their whole week in the online learning environment. 

“I find it more difficult to understand what I am being taught during e-learning, but it gets even harder when I face Wi-Fi difficulties,” senior Cailee Oslowski said. “It makes me feel even more stressed and confused since all my attention is fixed on trying to fix the Wi-Fi.”

These technical difficulties and fatigue are commonplace for many students. 

“Sometimes I will get issues with my Wi-Fi and just get kicked from a meeting,” freshman Odyssey Liakopoulos said. “Sitting at the computer all day also makes me extra exhausted, so I end up wanting to take a nap after school.”

Despite these criticisms, some students have deemed e-learning beneficial to not only their time management but also their workload and stress. 

“The ten-minute break between [classes] provides me time to get a snack as well as a quick detachment from technology,” junior Molly Shanahan said. “Typically, with in-person learning, I do my homework very last minute, but now with virtual learning, I do my homework the day I have received it.”

In addition to the schedule challenges, students are experiencing new family obstacles now that most people are working and studying from home. Whether it is helping younger siblings with learning, juggling divorced parents, or dealing with at-home disturbances, students not only have academic responsibilities, but family obligations to fulfill. 

“It has been difficult to manage the e-learning schedule with divorced parents,” Liakopoulos said. “I find it hard to keep track of everything I need to take back and forth. Sometimes, I have to switch houses during lunch, and it is challenging to gather everything. Going to and from school [by bus] would be my way of getting from house to house. Now, I find myself biking from house to house because my parents are having a harder time driving me during the day.”

For many students with younger siblings, remote learning means also taking on the role of teacher’s aide, as many are involved in some way with helping them in the virtual environment. Burke understands this well, as her brother, born with Dup15q syndrome, struggles with online school. 

“My brother has regressed,” Burke said. “He is so lost at home without a schedule to follow [because] he doesn’t understand the concept of e-learning. I find this topic very sad because he has also started to rely on my mom and dad more, and has not been attempting to do anything independently.”

To improve the learning experience, Maine South is giving unique opportunities for Special Education students by allowing some of these students and interns and teachers to return to the building. Senior Tara Murphy has had first-hand experience with this new option, being one of the interns for the Special Education class.

“It is so good to see the teachers and friends I have not seen since March, and I know I am so fortunate for this opportunity,” Murphy said. “This makes the days go by quicker, and it helps having something I am so passionate about to wake up for.”

While Maine South has given many opportunities for students to be involved in extracurriculars, seniors are still fearful that in an e-learning environment, they will not experience the true “senior experience.”

“I am sad that we do not get to experience senior year like we normally would with all the fun events like homecoming, football games, and just being in the building in general,” senior Abby Ciprian said. “They say high school is the best four years of your life, but we only got to have two and half years of a normal high school experience.”

With four years ahead of them, freshman students are optimistic. 

“I expected that it would be difficult since it was online, but if anything, I have had the best impression from the school itself and we haven’t even gone in-person yet,” Liakopoulos said.

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