An unconventional school year: freshman experiences

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 Due to the global pandemic, high school freshmen have lost the traditional start of their high school journey. Even during these unprecedented times, many students believe the school is doing its best to provide students with the best virtual school experience possible. The Classic spoke to several freshmen who have had many mixed opinions on the virtual learning experience thus far.

As the third week of school approaches, freshmen have shared numerous issues regarding technology, specifically with Zoom. Freshman Ava Collins reported that, “Zoom calls have been very laggy because I share the same wifi network with my two younger siblings.”

Other students also noted that being completely virtual is mentally challenging for them. “Being all remote impacts how I feel throughout the day. I don’t feel as motivated,” Sneha Paul admitted. Aiden Clarke added, “I hate having to sit down at my computer all day. It makes me feel lazy and unproductive even though I’m doing work.” 

Many have also had frustrations regarding countless schedule changes during the first and second weeks of school. “When I requested a program change, all of my other classes changed too. It was confusing at first, but I got the hang of it,” Dominique Silaban said. 

As a result of the uncertainty, teachers have been lenient and understanding of any complications students may be experiencing. Reem Nasrallah expressed that she has had positive experiences with many of her teachers. “[My teachers] ensure everybody understands the topics and material. A lot of them are really nice and funny, and I feel like I really fit in well with them,” she said. “I expected to be crying over the workload because of the high school stereotype, but so far, everything is pretty good. It’s way better than what I expected.”

Many students expressed that they prefer the new style of learning. Ava stated, “I prefer how homework is submitted virtually. Staff don’t have to print anything and submitting is more convenient. Handing in homework is simpler, easier and more environmentally friendly for the classes.” Daffny Cardoso also noted, “A lot of teachers want their students to have their cameras and microphones on. A lot of people don’t enjoy this, but I like to see who I’m working with and hear them talk to get a sense of normalcy.”

Incoming students have always been worried about making friends in a new school, but some say they are more nervous now that the only form of communication is through a screen. “I have not been able to make as many friends as I think I would have if we were actually in school and if the pandemic wasn’t going on. Through social media, I’ve made a couple of friends, but not that many,” Aiden said.

Despite the obstacle of making friends virtually, many believe that the school has provided them with an abundance of extracurriculars to immerse themselves into the Townsend Harris community.  “I like the large variety of extracurriculars,” Daffny explained. 

In addition, the Big Sib + Little Sib program was introduced this year, pairing incoming students with an upperclassmen mentor. “My Big Sib is really supportive and has helped me a lot so far. I can turn to her whenever I need something,” Dominique said. 

“Considering the fact that the pandemic is still raging and new instructions from the DOE are changing by the minute, it may be difficult for us to predict how the school year will go,” Hasana Abdullah concluded. “One thing I know for certain is that we can trust our Townsend Harris staff and administration to do all they can to make sure we have the best year possible.”