In their own words: What students say about Zoom School

Avery Lin, Senior

When we left Colorado Academy for Spring Break, COVID-19 was on my mind, but I didn’t think it would affect school. I thought it might arrive sometime after school ended for the year. Much like you look at any tragedy, I was thinking, “Well, this won’t happen to me.” When my mom read the email from Dr. Davis and said, “Looks like you aren’t going back,” it was a shock.

In my mind, I had the last trimester of my Senior year all laid out—prom, Senior Speeches, doing the Upper School musical—and then it was all canceled. In the weeks since the school closed, it’s been different for every one of us. It’s really sad in some ways, and in other ways that I would never have expected, I have been pleasantly surprised.

We start school at 8:00 a.m. and follow our regular block schedule on Zoom. The classes are 45 minutes with 15-minute breaks between classes and everything ends by 1:00 p.m. Teachers who use the Socratic method can adapt to Zoom fairly easily. Science classes with labs are more of a challenge. Today, in AP Chemistry, we had a lab in chromatography. Miss Boes had us gather all the materials we needed from what we could find around the house, including nail polish remover! It was brilliant.

In Acting class with Mr. Looper, we would normally be doing scenes together, but he adapted and is having us do monologues and recording them on film. In this whole experience, we are all using the principles of improv which are “Yes, and….” It’s a disruption for everyone, but the teachers are trying hard. Teachers propose new ways of doing things, and students go along saying, “Yes, and….” It shows what you can do when you have really smart teachers and devoted students.

One positive of Zoom learning is that we have amazing technology that allows us to see people’s faces. It doesn’t replace being in the room with my classmates, but just to wake up every morning and see their smiling faces offers a relief. Also, this gives a routine. Endless Spring Break is not something you want.

For me, the downside of remote learning is that I had no idea how much I would miss being in the hallways between classes, just having small interactions with students of all ages, waving to someone or making small talk with people. Those small interactions give you a burst of energy that gets you through the next class. Without those bursts of energy, Zoom School feels more tiring.

The one thing that I like about this Spring is the amount of free time I’ve had. At CA, I was always super busy, running to the next activity. Now I have time to do things I’ve always wanted to do—play the guitar, listen to music for pleasure, read books. I have half the day to explore myself, my hobbies, my interests. So in an odd way, even though I am trapped in my house, this has been freeing.

Harper Hodgson, Grade 7

Before Spring Break, we could already see that our teachers were preparing for the possibility we wouldn’t come back. But I was on the fence about it. I thought we might be back, but we might not be.

When I heard the news from Dr. Davis that we would be going to Zoom School, I was happy to have a routine. It’s good to have something to do besides sitting around the house and taking the dog for 30 walks a day.

My class schedule is pretty much my normal CA class schedule. It rotates, so it’s not the same every day. The classes are 35 minutes long, and the breaks are 15 minutes long, so the classes are shorter than usual, and the breaks are longer. We even have study hall. I have my schedule written on a piece of paper. Otherwise, I could be tardy to a class and get marked down!

There are positives to learning on Zoom. We can go into small groups and do group projects with our teacher dropping in to check on us. The teacher can share a screen, which is just like having a projector on the whiteboard in class, so that’s a good tool. We can work alone in our own space during school, which I actually like, especially when I am writing English assignments, because there are no distractions.

We have even been able to continue meeting with our Advisory once a week and with the Eighth Grade Leadership team. We play games with them. Today, it’s going to be “Guess the Baby,” where we all put up our baby pictures, and everyone has to try to guess who it is.

What are the downsides to Zoom learning? Because the classes are shorter, the discussion sessions are shorter. Also, it can be harder to speak out because the teachers can mute us! When we go back to school next year, the teachers are going to say, “Where’s my mute button?”

Overall, it feels like the school really has this situation organized and under control. Because I am focused on class, I have less stress, and I am much less worried about the virus. It’s good to have something else to think about. And I have loved spending a lot more time with my family. We actually can eat breakfast and lunch together!

Georgia Roberts, Grade 5

I saw this coming. My mom and I were going to visit my cousin in New York over Spring Break, and we had to cancel that. Our Chamber Music Concert was canceled, which was disappointing, but I figured no one might come. If you read the news, you knew that there were more cases of COVID-19 every day, so yes, I figured we might not come back to school, but I didn’t know that it would last this long.

When we got the email from Dr. Davis, I had a jumble of emotions. I was sad I wouldn’t see my friends. But I was glad that I could sleep in. An extra 90 minutes of sleep every day is definitely a plus.

We start school at 9 a.m. with morning meetings. We have classes that last about 35 minutes, including Math and Book Club. Right now, we are reading Fault in our Stars. Sometimes we have “break out rooms” where you can meet in a small group, and the teacher comes and checks on you. In Fifth Grade, we are all working on our Images of Greatness projects. We end the morning with homeroom and a closing circle. Before we leave, we get an “exit ticket” where we can say how we feel about our day.

After an hour off for lunch, we can log in for our “Specials” including Science, P.E., Art, and Music. We have one a day. I also am taking guitar and violin lessons on Zoom in the afternoon.

The plusses of Zoom School? Well, I like the “themed shares,” because you have to think ahead and have something prepared. I could never bring my two dogs to real school to share! I like short classes, because it gives me more time to do my homework. I feel like everything we are doing is very clear. The teachers show us exactly how to do things. And with Zoom, if you have questions or something doesn’t make sense, you can ask for help. Also, I like that I can see my friends and teachers.

The bad part is that sometimes the technology is not easy breezy, but it’s getting better. Sometimes the Wi-Fi goes down for our whole neighborhood, because so many people are using it, but we have gotten used to that. Also, I like “school school.” I miss being in a community doing things together. But it could have been much worse if we didn’t have Zoom, iPads, technology, the internet, and our teachers.