Distance learning: one roof, three perspectives

After months of staying at home in personal quarantine, these three siblings in different school levels now have chosen to stay virtual for school until further notice. But how has it affected them thus far?


Tyler Letcher

Gianna, Ben, and Tyler Letcher are a microcosm of the district; three levels of online schooling under one roof.

Our family is special, in the way that half the members of our immediate family are at high risk for contracting Covid-19. So, while the rest of the world reopens, we have to still bunker down like it’s the start of the year all over again. When we were given the option between virtual and hybrid school going forward this year, we felt we had to choose virtual. But with myself being in high school, and my siblings being in middle and elementary schools, how does this change in schooling affect each of us differently?

Elementary School

Gianna Grace Letcher, a second-grader at North Wales Elementary School, is currently dealing with learning subjects such as Math and English online, which is a stark shift from all school years prior for her.

“I’ll wake up and get ready for the day, then jump right onto my school meetings,” Gianna said.

Gianna has one teacher for all of her courses this year, who she’s really made a connection with thus far, even through virtual schooling.

“I’ll also have to check my Google Slides and my Google Docs because I’m the tech assistant for my class. I have to make sure all my Google Slides and Docs are ready since I help out with presenting to the class to help with anyone having trouble with their computers. I also have Gifted Resources on Mondays and Fridays,” she stated. “Every afternoon, we have an hour and a half lunch break. After that, I have independent work, then I get on a call to spend some time with my school friends.”

After her school day is done, Gianna usually will jump on Minecraft on her Xbox to play with some of her friends, many of which she has made long-distance over quarantine.

“I’ll call my friends every single afternoon,” she said, “and sometimes we’ll even be able to play video games together.”

Although she has had some opportunities to stay in contact with friends, Gianna would prefer utilizing the hybrid model as of right now.

“I’ve always wanted to see the second-grade classrooms, I’ve never been able to do that,” she said. “I also really want to meet my teacher and see my friends again.” 

“I’ve always wanted to see the second grade classrooms, I’ve never been able to do that. I also really want to meet my teacher and see my friends again.

— Gianna Letcher, 2nd Grader

She has, however, had a good experience so far with the virtual model.

“My teachers have done a really good job and have put a lot of hard work into it,” she said.

One thing she does to focus during the day? Listening to music through YouTube. And her one challenge with online school so far? Internet issues.

Middle School

Ben Letcher, an eighth-grader at Pennbrook Middle School, has mixed feelings about his current school situation.

“I’m okay with it. I’d rather be back in in-person, so I could hang out with my friends and all, but I’m fine with it. You know, being able to start school at 8:30, which lets me sleep in, is a definite plus. It’s just more comfy than being in school,” Ben said. 

Ben currently takes courses such as Geometry, which is difficult for him to sometimes stay focused on in a virtual environment.

“Other things at home can be distracting, whether it’s my phone or my pet,” he said.

So far, communications between teachers and students have been good in Ben’s eyes, unless the teacher is more technologically challenged.

“For the most part, most of my teachers are good with tech, and it’s been good so far,” Ben said.

“Last year, at the end of the year, I don’t even know if you could call it ‘schooling,’” Ben said. “It was just a filler, you could say, or busywork. This, right now, is definitely more structured and challenging… but overall, I’ve seen pictures of schools that have gone back so far, and I don’t feel safe going back to school right now. As much as I want to get back to in-person learning, safety is far more important than comfort.” 

As much as I want to get back to in-person learning, safety is far more important than comfort.

— Ben Letcher, 8th Grader

Ben hasn’t been able to see his friends as much, but he’s found outlets to stay connected through the internet.

“I’ll be able to get a little bit of socialization between PlayStation and texting my friends, but it’s not that much,” Ben said.

He does feel, however, that even though the amount of stress he faces doing school virtually is a bit much, in-person would be even more stressful right now. In order to de-stress after a long day, he’ll get a snack and jump on his PS4.

“I’ll finally be able to talk to my friends,” he said, “since I don’t have an outlet to talk to them during the day.”

High School

As a sophomore during this pandemic, life has undoubtedly been difficult. We’ve seen political unrest with social injustices, arguments about certain aspects of the pandemic; needless to say, added stress is not needed right now for anyone. Personally, I feel rather comfortable with online school, although many of my peers don’t seem to share the same ideas. I’ve been an introvert my whole life and now is no different. Even though I’m uncomfortable being on camera and really speaking up in class, being able to be in my room gives me sort of a home-field advantage. I’ll have time between classes to be able to take breaks seeing my family, which is a definite plus as we tend to check in on each other throughout the day for support. With Ben’s quote being “safety is more important than comfort,” I feel as though both of these aspects have been taken care of for me here.

Being someone with issues staying on task and focusing, working from home seems like a daunting adversary. Contrary to this, I’ve found the virtual environment to be beneficial for my schoolwork as I have more breaks and I can always do most, if not all, of my tasks in the same place. One simple trick I’ve used to stay on task thus far? I’ve kept my phone shut down across the room on its charger so I won’t get any notifications throughout the school day, which can be incredibly distracting. Using these tricks to stay on top of my work has kept my grades steady throughout the year so far, and hopefully will for the near future.

Keeping in touch with friends and family, while in a limited capacity, has been relatively easy for me throughout this time. Social media helps me to keep in touch with friends, both old and new, as well as family members. I’ve even been able to set up some socially distanced meetups between me and some friends, even during the school year. While all of us siblings have different perspectives on virtual learning, one thing is sure: we count on each other to get through it.