By Rebecca Geller
A year of hybrid learning has truly placed the Byram Hills community on a roller coaster of emotions. While many are ecstatic to get back to learning with their friends by their sides and the ambiance of a real-life classroom, others feel conflicted about this massive change.
Being back in school full-time has been immensely rewarding, yet many challenges have come along with it. From my perspective, sophomore year is challenging as it is, but missing an entire in-person freshman year, a transition year between high school and middle school, makes it even more difficult. The workload is substantially less in middle school, and the classes go at a much slower pace. Typically, when freshman year comes around, teachers understand that high school, with its demanding workload and challenging classes, takes time to adjust to. However, sophomores unfortunately missed this “normal” freshman year, which leaves them feeling very overwhelmed. In the past, there were five periods a day, less stringent due dates, and a shorter schedule. Now, we are being thrown into a standard year of high school: longer days with more class periods, stringent due dates, and longer school days in general.
Nevertheless, there are positives of getting to return to school full-time. Students are thrilled that they can see all their friends during school instead of over a screen. During online -school, we never really got to have a full-on pep rally or spirit week. This year, we all got to dress up throughout the week and attend the pep rally, which made everyone feel a part of the high school community. We also have the opportunity to eat with friends during lunch in numerous rooms around the school instead of being limited to one or two areas. Little things such as laughing with a friend during a class and not unmuting to speak are things we get to enjoy this year. Learning in person also forces students to pay attention more than we did virtually. The lessons are more engaging when you witness them face- to- face, and there are less distractions in the classroom, as opposed to the many at home. Even with all the masks and COVID restrictions, school this year feels much more normal than it did last year.
Mr. Horowitz, a chemistry teacher, feels that returning to school in person was the best option: “Students learn better when they have hands- on experiences and are face- to- face.” As a chemistry teacher, he points out that labs are a crucial part of the curriculum, yet last year, students couldn’t do labs in person. This year, however, much to Mr. Horowitz’s pleasure, labs can be done, enhancing students’ learning experience. He doesn’t miss teaching hybrid classes, even though he learned a lot of new teaching techniques from the experience. Although Mr. Horowitz is pleased to be back in the building, he does see students struggling with the transition. Going to school every day takes a lot more effort than merely hopping onto an online class at your desk five feet away from your bed. He believes that students are not used to the usual rigor of high school, so they perceive a typical year of high school as more rigorous when it is, in fact, normal. Mr. Horowitz, ever an optimist, believes that students will become accustomed to their classes as the year goes on. Mr. Horowitz’s advice for students who are struggling with this transition is to “Take advantage of the fact that teachers have office hours… and to take advantage of the time in -class as much as possible.”
Coming back to school has been a whirlwind of emotions: happiness to be back and anxiety over having to face the challenges of the transition. Overall, as Mr. Horowitz said, coming back to school will entail lots of “growing pains,” but it is worth it. We should all make the most of the fact that we have the opportunity to be back with our school community in-person this year.