A Virtually New Normal

After one week of online learning due to COVID-19 school closure, adapting to the new system came easier than expected.

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Maggie McKinney

Report Maggie McKinney's virtual learning workspace was situated on her bed throughout the first week. McKinney always kept her laptop, her AirPods, a scrunchie, writing utensils and her notebooks close by so she wouldn't have to get up during class.

Maggie McKinney, Editorial Editor

“Is my screen presenting?”

“Can you hear me okay?”

“Did you turn your microphone off?”

These questions were ones I never thought I would have to hear repeated over and over everyday. On the other hand, online learning was never something I thought I would have to do in the first place. I imagined the last quarter of my junior year to be relatively uneventful. I would be leaving my house at 8:00 a.m. so I would have time to run to Quik Trip for coffee before class, sitting in the library for study hall and hustling up the stairs after my last class so I would be able to actually leave the junior parking lot in a timely manner.

But sure enough, I woke up on Tuesday morning at 8:35, brushed my teeth and got right back into bed with my laptop so I could check into my Maison by 8:45. As my leader, math teacher Mac McGory, asked our Google Meet group after prayer if we had any questions about virtual learning, a million different questions buzzed through my head. Would I have to join a virtual classroom for all of my classes everyday? What should I do if I have a question? Do I have to ask to use the bathroom?

A screenshot of my schedule for the first week of online classes. Classes each day were all in block schedule format, with each period having 90 minute classes every other day.

My nerves and doubts about online schooling got to me as soon as I joined my first hour class that day. I wasn’t confident that I could comprehend lessons or be fully focused on classes if I wasn’t physically in them. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to learn as well through online instruction and that I would fall behind and my grades would slip.

However, I soon discovered that online learning was less daunting than I had imagined it to be. Most of my virtual classes only met for 15-30 minutes and many of my teachers had recorded their own lessons so we could watch them on our own to be able to complete assignments. All of my teachers were sympathetic to the situation the students were in and I am incredibly grateful for the amount of support, help and patience they have shown this past week.

Maggie McKinney
During his fourth hour AP United States History class on Friday, history teacher Richard Shrock showed the online class the product of his new knitting hobby.

Everyday got a little bit easier. I set alarms two minutes before check in time for all my classes so I wouldn’t forget to log in. I started keeping pens and highlighters on the nightstand next to my bed so I wouldn’t have to frantically search for one during class (Yes, I work from my bed. My desk chair is so uncomfortable.) Quickly, I began to appreciate the benefits that virtual learning offers. I could work at my own pace, wear an out of uniform sweatshirt and I was able to work from the comforts of my room instead of sitting at a desk all day.

Despite how quickly I got used to my “new normal”, I did struggle at times to adapt. There were times that I had to turn my microphone off during a lesson and send a very stern text message to my younger brothers, who have not yet started online classes, to quiet down. On Wednesday, I actually did end up asking my Honors Algebra II teacher, Reynold Middleton, if I could use the bathroom. He laughed, said yes and left me a little embarrassed.

As much as I like working from home, it makes me sad to think about all the things I will miss that can’t be replicated through online learning. I won’t experience the chaos that is Sion Olympics this year, nor am I likely to get to go to my first Prom. I probably won’t get my Junior Ring ceremony, I won’t get to give my speech in person at the National Honor Society induction and I won’t get to ask theology teacher Paul Kramschuster “What’s popping?” every morning religiously for a while. But I try not to dwell on what is lost. I try to stay thankful for what I have now- my education, Internet access and a support system made up of my family, friends and teachers.

submitted by Harry McKinney
My brother snapped this picture of me on Friday while I was working on Honors Algebra II homework. One of the things I was most excited about virtual learning was being able to wear out-of-uniform clothes, meaning I could wear my Pittsburgh Penguins hockey jersey.

To many, virtual learning is a pain. And in many ways, they’re right. It’s scary, confusing and a lot can go wrong. But after a week of online schooling, I am confident that I can make the best of circumstances so foreign to me. To be honest, I am a little excited to see how elements like tests and group projects will work. It’s also pretty amusing to see what my teachers’ houses look like (history teacher Richard Shrock has a massive Star Wars poster in his room, to the surprise of absolutely no one.) Virtual learning is certainly a weird situation, but it’s one I know I can adapt to.