As schools across Chicago shut their doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, the everyday lives of students and families across Logan Square have undoubtedly changed.
An abrupt shift to online learning has caused many in our neighborhood to embark on a largely unanticipated journey of e-learning. As a college student recently hit by online classes, I have learned that there is not a singular experience that encapsulates this unforeseen change. In order to best understand this new educational landscape, I checked in with some Chicago Public School students and families in the neighborhood to see how they are doing amidst this unprecedented time.
Families and students shared challenges and positives to remote learning; advice for others in the same boat and what they miss from going to school. Read on to hear the voices of households navigating the world of e-learning.
Jacqueline & Charlotte
5th & 3rd grade students / Logan Square residents: 10 years
Since these two sisters started their online classes, they’ve created a self-established system in an attempt to mimic their school day — just with more snacks and trampoline breaks. They’ve also learned that although there might be less wasted time waiting with a raised hand for help or lining up for bathroom breaks, it’s been quieter without their peers and friends around.
“There’s no line-up to get to each class; it’s definitely quieter but I miss my friends. My friends make me focus more,” said Jacqueline.
“This morning I had to do these word problems online and it was easier because when you got the problem wrong you could press help and not give you the direct answer but help figure it out,” Charlotte said. “At school, you would have to raise your hand and everything.”
Jacqueline has some advice for other students trudging through online learning. A very basic but important one: sit up straight while on a computer.
“Try not to look up the answers even if you’re tempted to,” she said. Put your phone away (like on top of the refrigerator). Go on your school account, not home account.”
6th grade student / Logan Square resident: 9 years
Thommy starts his day with a morning Zoom session to go over what is due on that day for his classes. He appreciates both having a clear schedule of what’s due on each day as well as having time to do things he enjoys. However, it’s been hard for him and his classmates to find the self-motivation to escape the temptations of procrastination.
“It feels like a lot more work when you don’t have someone pressuring you to do it and you don’t have assigned times to do it,” Thommy said. “It’s hard to keep on top of things.”
He said half the reason he does his schoolwork is “because I have nothing better to do.”
In school, you don’t have much to screw around with so you can focus on your work. In my room, with all of my forms of entertainment, it’s a bit difficult.Thommy, 6th grader
“Nine out of ten times when I’m doing my work I will get distracted by something,” he said, something many are feeling as we study and work from home. “In school, you don’t have much to screw around with so you can focus on your work. In my room, with all of my forms of entertainment, it’s a bit difficult.”
On the other hand, though, he realized that e-learning provides flexibility with his day and gives him time to do other things — like play those other forms of entertainment for a break, though it’s still a balancing act.
High school senior / Logan Square resident: 15 years
Pilar has appreciated that it usually isn’t mandatory to tune into class every day and that there aren’t any real repercussions for missing assignments. Although this was an unfortunate end to her high school years, her social relationships still feel intact.
“We are all adjusting and figuring it out at the same time and together so a lot of stuff that you would do at school in person, you still do over social media,” Pilar said. “You still ask your friends, ‘Are you going to class?’ You still talk to them during class, just over Snapchat or text.”
Pilar isn’t too disappointed that she missed the “big things” of senior year, like prom and graduation, which have all gone virtual now. Last week, CPS announced that Oprah will give the commencement speech at the citywide virtual graduation ceremony.
“As much graduation and prom mean a lot to us, I think the idea of our first semester in college being not the way we expect it is just as off-putting,” Pilar said.
Leila and Wendy
8th Grade student & her mother / Logan Square residents: 4 years
An overwhelming amount of unclear communication marked the initial experience Wendy and her daughter, Leila, had with their school’s shift to online learning. They felt growing concerns over how successfully virtual learning could accommodate different learning styles and provide the in-depth learning that could only be done in the classroom.
Wendy said she figured remote learning was going to happen once the virus took hold in March, but said she has been disappointed with how her Leila’s school handled the transition.
“The school did not communicate well about anything at all,” Wendy said. “It was like the door closed and everybody ran home.”
“The school did not communicate well about anything at all. It was like the door closed and everybody ran home.Wendy, CPS parent
For Leila, the transition was overwhelming at first. She said now she has it under control, but it was an odd thing to get used to.
“When I first logged into my [email] there were over 100 emails from the past few days,” Leila said.
Wendy is worried that e-learning won’t help her daughter learn all the material she could if she were in person. As a parent, the learning aspect, and how it transfers online, could suffer.
“I am worried about the grades but not as worried as I am about them just absorbing the knowledge,” she said. “I think everyone will struggle next year, no matter what grade they are in because there is a lot missed. Some schools will thrive, survive, and success while other schools will absolutely go down the drain.”
Sage & Skye
High school sophomore & 6th grade student / Logan Square residents: 16 years
Sage and Skye are both missing the social aspect of school more than anything. On top of that, Sage has found difficulties learning without her peers while Skye has had to navigate creating a schedule at home that is conducive to productivity.
“Most of the time my dad and mom wake me up and then I get ready to go. But now it’s like, I wake up and go turn on the computer to start school,” Skye said. “It’s hard to get [work] done sometimes because there isn’t a person on your back all the time, like a teacher, saying, ‘Now we are doing this!’ I have to choose what to do at different times.”
Sage has felt similar frustrations to other students about absorbing information online.
“I can’t really learn just reading something and applying it. I have to have a conversation where I can really understand and ask in-depth questions,” Sage said.
“I definitely am someone who works better when I am collaborating with somebody else. Group work is my favorite thing; I get more work when I am with other people,” she said. “It’s hard to keep myself on it sitting alone in my room.”
High school junior / Logan Square resident: 16 years
Max admits that he hasn’t been doing much work since his classes went online. He has assignments to do but they feel clouded by the “turn in time” rather than the content. However, along with diminished effort, he enjoys having more flexibility and time in the day.
“It’s easy to get by with my online classes but the motivation behind actually learning doesn’t really feel there because I can do fine without all the effort,” Max said.
He said he has more time at home now, which makes assignments less stressful.
“The amount of time I have to take tests or do assignments is less stressful and not having to rush from class to class feels more manageable,” he said.
But he does miss one thing that only can be felt from physically going to school.
“I miss the satisfaction of getting through a day of school,” he said.