Learning from this Pandemic

Opinion

Over the past few weeks, all of our lives have been turned upside down. Instead of our spirits being crushed in light of recent events, I think we’ve shown remarkable resilience even through these trying times. We’ve found creative ways to come together while being apart all over the world, such as birthday drive-bys, Netflix party sessions, or group activities over FaceTime.

While these new circumstances have caused some of us to thrive, many have been talking about when our lives will finally return to normal. Instead of simply wishing for things to go back to how they used to be, I challenge you, the KO community, and society as a whole to learn from this pandemic and implement a new reality.

This pandemic has forced teachers to dramatically alter the style and tempo of their lessons. Online learning has challenged them to create new lesson plans, rethink the way assessments are administered, and think of new ways to present material in an engaging way. In all of my classes, my teachers have done a great job of rethinking lesson plans under a time crunch. 

However, keeping some of this variation in the regular school day would make classes even more engaging than they currently are. I also think that the reduced amount of tests and quizzes are notable. Even changing the amount of memorization required completely alters its nature. Many teachers have made their assessments open note and instead evaluated us on our ability to synthesize information, draw conclusions, and produce quality work. These are also accurate ways to assess a student’s understanding of course material and options that should be considered in the future. 

Additionally, the Upper School has implemented a 9:00 a.m. start, 30-minute breaks between classes, and a 90-minute lunch break. Although I understand this arrangement would not be sustainable for a full school year, I think parts of it would be wise to implement in the normal schedule. 

In the first week of March, we left school (unknowingly) for the last time this year to begin Spring Break. Assuming that the virus has been contained by September (which is not a sure thing, as some recent studies show that intermittent periods of social distancing may need to occur until 2022), we will have had a reduced schedule for three months, and then an additional three months of summer. That’s six total months without our usual academic rigor. 

If the school is prompted to keep elements of our new schedule solely based on the increased opportunities for productivity with a healthy balance of relaxation time, it should be taken into account that readjusting to our normal schedule after a six-month hiatus is a daunting task. The idea of being in school from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day with few breaks seems foreign to me, and it’s only been a month and a half. The student body would have less freedom to go outside in the middle of the day, or spend time with their family, or even just relax between classes.

Some things that have been emphasized throughout this pandemic are the importance of time away from screens, getting outside on a regular basis, and catching up on sleep. To address these three points, I would say that we consider an 8:30 a.m. start, allowing students to leave campus during the day (whether it be to get fresh air or grab lunch in the center), and an hour lunch every day. I believe these changes would improve the quality of life for not only students, but teachers as well.