By JT Shatzer
As school rolls around each year, it brings a change of pace to the lives of students who have gotten used to the freedom and laziness of summer. However, as the Covid-19 pandemic remains a threat to public safety, schools have been forced to start the year online. Although online school may have been a breeze for most students towards the end of last year, the structure has been completely revamped to resemble a “normal” school day as much as possible. With more structure and normalcy being the goal, the results of its effectiveness are still yet to be seen. And what is the only way to determine how well online school is working? By asking the opinions of those directly affected by it: the students.
With the online setting of school still being relatively foreign to everyone involved, Howard County created a schedule that includes an “asynchronous day” on Wednesdays of each week. The goal of this day is to reduce stress on students by not holding mandatory meetings, essentially making it a “day off.” Many students are extremely appreciative of the introduction of these new asynchronous days, such as Glenelg Senior, Niko Garbis, who states, “It’s a relief going to bed on Tuesday nights knowing that I won’t have to stare at my laptop for another four hours the next day. I’ve been sleeping in on Wednesdays, getting a ton of work done at my own pace, and hanging outside in this gorgeous weather.” As Howard County continues to aim to be more conscious about mental health, the introduction of this asynchronous day seems to have many students wishing for it to stay-- regardless of being in a virtual environment or not.
Despite the asynchronous day being a key component for time management within students, it does not necessarily make the entire online schooling experience any less stressful than a normal school year. The classes students are taking this year are mostly semester-long courses rather than full-year courses (being that each student has a maximum of four classes per semester). This is a drastic change to what students and teachers are traditionally used to, and the shortened amount of time spent in each class has altered the way material is taught, and the magnitude of the workload. On top of that, students often find themselves not paying attention during online classes, then becoming overwhelmed by the amount of work they are clueless about throughout the week. Glenelg Sophomore, Joey Samsock, explains how crucial time management and planning is with online school as he states, “Without a planner I would be struggling. This whole block schedule thing is nothing I have gone through before, so I make sure to take out my planner and write down all my assignments for the week at the beginning of the week.” For students who struggle with organization, the whole aspect of being completely responsible for managing one’s time is often a daunting task for them.
The stress level within students this year has been reported to be much higher than previous years despite the luxury of learning from home. Whether its the unfamiliarity of online learning or the daunting task of being completely self-reliant in school, many students find themselves in a state of panic when trying to manage their workload. When asked to compare the stress level of online school to the stress level of normal school, Glenelg Senior, Meghan Goodman, explains, “I think this year is already more stressful than the last one. At least when we were in school we could talk to our friends and teachers face to face about what we are stressed out about. I also think teachers are giving out more work because they have to fit a whole course worth of work in one semester.” The prospect of online schooling seems to be a bit difficult to manage for all parties involved, especially since it is truly brand new to all. The discomfort and unfamiliarity of the structure, in general, seem to be leading to increased amounts of stress within students and teachers alike.
Although education is obviously the primary objective of schooling, the online setting prohibits many other aspects of school life and culture from being enjoyed. From sports being postponed to students missing daily interaction with their peers, to missing out on school-sponsored activities and events, online school really just doesn’t seem like school at all to many students. Glenelg Junior, Jaegon Hibbitts, "expressed the aspects of school he misses the most as he states, “School doesn’t feel the same without seeing everyone in person. We didn’t get the last day of school, we didn’t get the first day of school, we probably won’t get homecoming, or anything else for a while. Those types of things really got me through school, but I guess I will just have to deal with it.” From the student’s perspective, a school without school events just does not feel the same. Luckily, with efforts in preventing the spread of Covid-19, the MPSSAA has proposed a plan to bring back athletic play as early as October 7th. With the power to resume play entirely in the hands of Howard County, many students, especially Seniors, are hoping to get their sports seasons back up and running. Glenelg Senior, Liam Hayden, describes his hope for the return of fall sports as he explains, “This season was supposed to be the greatest season for the football team in a while. We have such an amazing group of guys, and if we get this season taken away from us, I’d be heartbroken.” So many student-athletes of all sports were distraught over the fact that the season they’ve worked for all summer could have been completely canceled. As case numbers continue to improve, Howard County student-athletes could return to action sooner than anyone would have previously thought.
Despite the circumstances not being ideal, amidst this pandemic, Glenelg students are doing their best to adapt to the changing conditions of the online world. Hopefully, in the near future, normalcy will be restored within schools in a safe manner, and student life will return even stronger than ever. Make sure to check in with the GHS Shield for more updates on the school year and student life!