Kinda El Dakkour a high school student is being interviewed by Education Basket’s COO Jessica Naime
The pandemic has affected the lives of people on a global level. Young learners and school students were amid those people who saw their lifestyles change from one day to another, having to adapt to remote learning (when possible) or simply, unfortunately, pause their education journey. Not all schools were able to adapt equally to the situation. We have previously published a post on a university student’s remote learning experience on this blog as well as the hardship of Lebanese teachers in these challenging times with no help on the logistical or financial levels from the government.
Here, we will be getting a more positive view on remote learning from a young high school student based in Kuwait. Kinda is currently taking her IGCSEs at a British school and shared her experience with us.
1. You obviously had a peculiar year, could you please describe the transition to online learning?
At the beginning, the transition to online learning was rough. Only a few students attended class, and there was a lingering sense of confusion and instability felt by everyone. There were no solid rules put in place, and each subject either used Zoom or Google Meet with new codes each day, so it was a struggle keeping up. Every subject had to do 2 classes a week instead of 3 like before the pandemic, so students weren’t sure if they had a lesson for their subject that day or not. There was no solid timetable for students to follow, and there was a lack of communication with the teachers who were trying to adapt to online learning.
However, after experience, the next academic year became more strict and organized. The school decided we would only use Google Meet for our lessons and every subject had one code that was activated by the teacher before the start of class. Every student had a timetable they would follow, and school started at 7:30 am and ended at 2:30 pm. Attendance was taken every morning and any non-compliant students would be sanctioned or have their parents phoned home. The transition to online learning at first was a bumpy road, but eventually as things became more organized it was clear what students had to do and discipline was compulsory.
2. Did your school provide you with enough information and training to understand the tools being used?
It was difficult for the school to adapt to online learning so abruptly, therefore, they tried to provide us with as much information and guidance as they could, but that was only possible to a certain extent. Fortunately, this year things are going more smoothly and we have clear instructions and enough practice to make the whole virtual school experience manageable.
3. Did you already use these online learning tools prior to the pandemic and lockdowns?
My school engaged students and teachers with chromebooks prior to the pandemic. We knew how to use this tool effectively which helped make adapting to online school and communication easier.
4. Has the transition to online learning affected your academic performance? If yes, could you please let us know in what ways?
Sometimes, It has affected my academic performance because online learning comes with many distractions during the school day that can divert our focus from class, but I have learnt how to manage distractions and pay attention in class to sustain academic excellence. An advantage of online learning is that during exams we can sit in a comfortable position to our liking, in contrast to a study hall where you’ll feel more pressure and stress. In addition, sometimes we lack motivation through online learning because there is no study environment or teachers or peers to push us to stay on top of our game. However, through online school I have learnt to self-motivate myself and I feel like that was a key factor for getting me through. Also, a key source of motivation that helped me was doing daily meetings to sit down and study with friends online together. That helped me especially during exam season to stop procrastinating as much and seeing my peers working hard helped me work and created a study environment that lacked with online school. Also, there’s a website called studystream.live where it takes you to a zoom meeting with hundreds of students studying at the same time, building a community where students can inspire each other regardless of where they are in the world and motivate you to work.
5. Did your school offer to help students with difficulties outside of class hours?
No, outside of class hours I feel teachers use their time to do their own things because there’s only limited time in the day especially during the pandemic, so it may have been challenging for them to divide their time and devote more time to students.
6. Did your school offer psychological counselling during this period?
From time to time, they send emails containing information on thinking positively or using your time wisely or general well-being tips to look after our emotional health during the pandemic. In addition, they once did a Google meet on how to ease anxiety by doing breathing exercises, and there’s a mindfulness club every Thursday first break.
7. Do you feel that online learning affected you? In what ways?
Online learning has put communication barriers between students and teachers; often it’s hard to send teachers questions on email and get a fast response. In some cases, I have important questions and teachers take time to respond or even don’t. However, if we were at school I could ask them a plethora of questions face to face and communication would be much faster and easier. Additionally, It has also affected my sleeping patterns because the thought of not having to wake up early to get ready is at the back of my mind so I have the tendency to sleep later than compared to going to school or even not being able to sleep because of the amount of blue light I have been exposed to from screens. Sometimes, the amount of homework keeps me up too as teachers assign work to see our progress with what we’re learning and trying to complete many of them on time can become overwhelming.
8. Do you feel this amount of screen time is affecting you? If so, how?
The increased amount of screen time is physically and mentally draining. Most of my time during the day is spent on looking at screens and this can result in health risks. Prime examples are eye strain and unfitness from sitting down all day because if we were at school we would have much more movement from class to class and during break times. Also, hunching over our computer screens can cause back and neck pain and result in bad posture.
9. What are positive aspects you could highlight about remote learning?
It has given me more control over my school life and I can go about my school day comfortably without having school rules and regulations intervene, for example, at school we have designated times to eat our lunch but at home we can have food whenever we want to and do school where we want to. Online learning has also helped me improve my attendance and punctuality, this is because it is easier to do school when it’s from the comfort of your home and easier to avoid being late when you don’t have to transport to physical school.
10. As a High School student, do you feel you are missing out by not seeing people? In what ways? Can this be managed in a lockdown period? How?
Surprisingly no, I do not feel like missing out because my close friends and I have found ways to communicate even more during lockdown. We live in the age of technology and communication isn’t that hard, we have managed to make time during our day to talk and catch up with each other.
11. What do you miss the most?
I miss forms of entertainment such as the cinema or amusement parks or concerts. I miss travelling and going back to my own country to see my family. I miss not having to wear a mask and being in lively crowds, but seeing a large crowd now is oddly unsettling…
12. Since you are spending most of your time behind screens, what do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I try to do a range of activities away from the screen such as reading, playing board games or going outside. I believe it’s important to take time away from the screen because we solely depend on technology during the school day, therefore, I try to take every opportunity I can to avoid screens. However, I do take a portion of my day to talk to my friends and stay in touch during these uncertain times, because isolation could have a drastic impact on our well-being. Also, going on social media helps me stay connected with the rest of the world and watching shows on streaming platforms gives me a nice break. Oh well, screens seem unavoidable…