First semester was a challenge amongst students and teachers alike. With communication problems to internet problems, they faced it all together. Now the second semester looms.
“My school computer was broken, then when I submitted it (to get fixed) it got lost for a bit so I got behind,” junior Jackson Troll said on the start to semester one. “My hardest class was pre-calculus because it feels like the teacher increasingly makes the class more difficult to do.”
Students are not alone in the belief that this school year has been a doozie. According to the New York Times, students from all around the country talked about losing productivity or motivation to do work. Grades dropped and the pressure of school increased.
“Challenges that I face are I didn’t want to do work; and my teachers were breaking rules all the time,” Troll said. “Most give me lots of extra work during freeze weeks, and sometimes just not responding to emails.”
Students said extra work was a challenge. With it feeling more like busy work, students found themselves drowning in assignments.
“I dislike all my classes but I’m unable to switch so I’ll just keep trying. Students entering second semester, just make sure to check for daily homework and announcements from teachers,” Troll said.
Troll wasn’t the only one feeling uncertainty from first semester heading into second. Although it has been a strange school year for most people, students offered good advice.
“Advice I would give students next semester is don’t put off work,” junior Brandon Cobb said. “I balance my school work and social life by saying I can’t interact with anyone till I finish my work and make a schedule for myself.”
Freeze weeks varied for many students.
“I have benefitted from freeze weeks in that I can take a brain break and relax,” Cobb said. “Semester one I faced the challenge of finding motivation to do my work.”
But while others have benefitted from freeze weeks, others have not.
“I have not benefited from freeze weeks because all my teachers have been uploading during the freeze weeks. I don’t really do much school work even though I have a lot,” Troll said.
Even with the unpredictable and unprecedented year, Oak Park continued trying to make semester two better for its students.
“We will offer more virtual support including live lessons second semester for virtual learners. That will be really helpful,” Principal Chris Sartain, Ed.D. said. “No, we didn’t (anticipate freeze weeks). But we adjusted our pacing and feel like we may not need as many or any in spring.”
Teachers were told to choose their own freeze weeks as a department for the spring semester, rather than the building-wide freeze weeks used in the fall. Some departments may not offer freeze weeks at all, choosing instead to offer altered pacing for the work.
Students aren’t the only ones facing challenges this school year though. It’s uncharted waters for teachers as well.
“We miss our students,” Sartain said. “It’s hard not seeing you all and being able to support you in-person as much. When we see students struggling, they don’t always respond which has been very hard.”
No experience is the same.
“I wish we could have found a way to make sure every student had the support they needed from the first day. We know a lot now I’d go back and change but I feel we will do even better next semester.” Sartain said.