Freshmen navigate their first year of high school online


Credit: Courtesy of Maggie Melander

Freshman Maggie Melander lays out her work as she gets ready for a long day of school online. Starting out school online is one of the first steps into helping students transition back into in-person school. “[This] is what has to happen in order for us to go back ” freshman Maggie Melander said.

Deirdre Brown and Haley Melvin

Over the course of the past three weeks, incoming freshmen have been introduced to Wayland High during a year unlike any other due to COVID-19. The new freshmen have juggled lots of new information all at once while starting the year online.

To start off the year, freshmen were given a socially distanced orientation of the new school. They traveled in small groups of around 10 people, along with a peer mentor to guide them. They walked around the school as their mentor gave information about the school. Some freshmen are worried about not knowing where to go when the school transitions to a hybrid model.

“The only time I was able to see the school was during orientation, so I’ve only seen the school once fully,” freshman Maggie Melander said. “The visit was only for a very short amount of time.”

Another obstacle freshmen face by starting their WHS career online is not creating connections with teachers. Students are only able to see teachers twice a week for 80 minutes. Creating connections is a big part of learning, and some have found it difficult to connect with someone they have never met before.

“I haven’t met my teachers in person,” Melander said. “I think that’s been hard, because I don’t know them, and it’s hard to form a connection. The only time I get to see them is during zoom. It’s very different from anything I’ve done before.”

Dogs barking, siblings yelling, and other background noises can make focusing very difficult. Some students find their phones to be the most distracting. Others find staring at their screen for 80 minutes very difficult. Fidget toys and other objects have helped some students stay focused.

“My phone is a huge distraction, so I try to keep it on my bed, and just far away from me,” Melander said. “It definitely helps me stay focused. And also, honestly just having some things to do, so having water to drink or just doodling on a piece of paper. It really helps me a lot.”

Freshman Joey Burke agrees that his phone can cause him to become easily distracted.

“I have very few distractions, but sometimes technology isn’t my greatest friend and I become distracted with making everything work,” Burke said.

80-minute classes have had lots of effects on students, including headaches, trouble focusing, and nausea. Many have found it difficult to get used to this drastic change from last year’s 30 minute online classes.

“Personally, I think the 80 minute classes are kind of long,” freshman Zach Rainville said. “The first hour goes pretty well and then when it comes to the last 20 minutes, I feel like most of the class starts getting a bit tired and ready for the 15 minute break between classes.”

Some have also found that classes are the perfect amount of time, and they enjoy the extra time in class.

“The 80 minutes with a break in between each class is perfect,” Burke said.

A big concern about online school is that the freshmen aren’t able to participate in hands-on activities, such as labs.

“We don’t really get to do all those bio labs that we would if we were actually in school,” Rainville said.

Another concern among the freshman is asking questions through zoom. Students have to raise their hands and wait for the teacher to see them to be called on. Sometimes teachers don’t see the hands and questions are forgotten. Other times, the questions can be hard to answer and students aren’t able to fully understand the answer.

“If we were in person we can just raise our hand, but since we’re online it’s a lot harder to show that we have a question,” Melander said. “If you have a question after class, the only thing you can do is email your teacher or go to office hours on Wednesdays.”

Online school has been a challenging time for some, but many freshmen are optimistic that the hybrid plan will create positive change for the school year. Melander is excited to experience WHS in person.

“I’m super excited for hybrid,” Melander said. “I think that it’s really good that we will be in school for a little time to just get some actual school experience.”