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Online conferences, time management, and communication: How Upper School students have experienced Distance Learning

It’s been around 18 months since the COVID pandemic first hit the Czech Republic and altered the way we live, work, and learn. Distance Learning became the norm for much of the past school year with teachers and students alike adjusting to Zoom calls and working remotely. 

Upper School (US) students have been significantly impacted by the current climate, and their feelings about and experiences of Distance Learning have been mixed.

One US student explains, “It was nice in the sense of having time for myself and the time at home to figure out my passions, I guess it was good for that. I also feel like I’ve missed out on, sort of, senior life and the interactions with people that I could’ve had this year. I think every year people change a lot and you always find new friends and I didn’t really.”

Many other US students agreed that there were positive and negative impacts caused by the very different learning context with which they were faced.

“I would say one of the positives is, at the start at least, I felt like I had more time to relax, it wasn’t as stressful but as soon as it started becoming a much more long-term thing, that is when it started to become more stressful. The adjustment to distance learning was very difficult, but now I feel like we have adjusted well, so everything is more smooth and organized and I would also say with distance learning.

Upper School student at ISP

Due to the move to distance learning, extra-curricular activities and sports clubs have had to move online or been canceled altogether as well.

Another student reflects that these types of things are what they missed the most about not being able to come into school regularly.

They said: “For me, I would probably say the most challenging thing has been the cancellation of the ISP sports. There was a great sense of community, where I felt part of a team. I did soccer and basketball and I miss being able to go to practice three times a week and see everyone and have that team feeling when you go and play a game and you represent your school.”

This was also the impact that  Joe Monks, Director of Activities at ISP feels how COVID restrictions have impacted students’ learning and wellbeing  

“In some ways, distance learning has been hard because we haven’t had that belonging you might have previously felt in a sports team or a physical gathering in a room,” he added.

While many sporting events and in-person projects have had to be postponed over the last year, the move to a virtual world has opened up possibilities for some students. 

Conferences like CEESA-wide Pride have been allowed to open up to more countries and students virtually, the Model United Nations event took place online with groups such as the Happy Caravan club continuing to meet and host events in virtual settings. 

One event in particular, along with the student participants had to adapt to the COVID-world. As one student explained: “I was part of the TedX conference and in a way, I think the way everything proceeded is very symbolic of distance learning. The auditions were supposed to be in person, we had scheduled them, but then auditions were online. We were supposed to have an actual event in October, then it got moved to December, then we were told in January we would have to record them online. The way that proceeded was very symbolic of distance learning’s uncertainty, and how you think you will be doing one thing and then it gets put back several months, and then all of a sudden you are recording stuff at home.”

As we shift back to learning onsite, what are your biggest concerns about returning to “normal” classes?

“I think a lot of students have lost their time management skills, but a lot of us have more time to do more things I think. When I was in 10th grade, I took like five new hobbies at the beginning of quarantine. Having that extra time, we’re kind of taking advantage of that now, but I think it will make it difficult to make the transition back to in-person school,” said one student. 

The final word goes to Mr. Penn, who says he found the attitude of students during this time to be particularly impressive: “every day watching students show up and shine, this has given a lot of students a chance to step up and see what they are made of and it has been very gratifying and memorable that we all could’ve chosen to just give up and muddle through, but people have stepped up and tried to make the most of it, so that’s been cool for me!”