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Column: The close of a crazy school year

Rhea Jones 002
Rhea Jones

This school year has undoubtedly been one to remember, thankfully it’s over and we can start to relax and transition into summer mode.

Before we completely put this year behind us we must discuss how school was different this year, how effective it was, and what we should do next year. As almost everyone is aware, schools were closed due to COVID-19 and all classes were very suddenly switched to online which inevitably came with both pros and cons.

Some students preferred learning online because it gave them more freedom and control over their education.

Working from home gave students the ability to manage their own schedules and work on their own time.

Many students enjoyed being able to wake up later in the day and move their “school time” around their other commitments (specifically jobs) to be convenient for them.

Students who excel in time management were able to finish their courses early and completed school in much less time than an average school day would take. Some students even found that they gained a much better understanding of subjects when they were the ones who had to teach themselves.

However, this was not the case for all students. In fact, the majority of students found online learning significantly harder than being in a classroom.

Since this was a very sudden switch, it was hard for teachers to rearrange their entire plan for the year. While our teachers did a great job, our learning was unavoidably based on a lot of trial and error this year.

This also put a lot of pressure on parents with younger kids, as they had to do a lot of the teaching themselves and make sure that their young kids were staying on task.

Regardless of how online school affected our learning, the issue we should really be discussing is how online schooling affected students’ social and mental health.

Social interaction is a necessity for all humans, especially young kids whose development relies on the interaction between them and other kids. For older kids and adults, being social is just as important since our support often comes from our friends. Switching school to online takes this necessary support system away. Nearly all students can agree that switching to online learning has been harmful to their mental health. Being isolated at home without the break of school or a different workspace was very challenging for a lot of students, especially those who are very social.

Moving forward Alberta Education is looking at three options for schooling next year. The first being the return to near-normal school with some health restrictions.

The second would be a mix of in-school classes with a reduced number of students in school every day and online classes. The last option would be online learning similar to what we experienced this year. The first option seems to be the most favourable and the Alberta government is leaning towards it.

However, they are also looking at the second option as a likely possibility. If you have strong opinions one way or another I encourage you to voice your thoughts to the school divisions or to the Alberta government.

While the fall still contains many unknowns we are thankful for all the work that our teachers, principals, and school divisions have done.

This transition certainly wasn’t easy for them either.

I’m sure that upon our return to school, all students and staff will have a new appreciation for each other and our education. Regardless of the future uncertainties, students and teachers are officially free to now relax and enjoy their well-deserved summer holidays.

Let’s make it a good one.