Jan. 14, 2021
Blog Post: USCHS Junior Lily Leggat
The following, written by Upper St. Clair High School junior Lily Leggat, was recently submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in response to a call for student authors to share their experiences as learners during the pandemic.
Google Meet breakout rooms often start quite awkwardly, with one brave student unmuting and saying hello. It often shocks me how shy we have become and continue to be, especially with classmates I have known to be outgoing since kindergarten. I have found, however, that once the conversation starts, my peers and I are quite eager to engage with one another.
Other than my family and the small group of friends I see, such interactions are the greatest extent that I am in contact with my community. We, as students and young adults, value time in the company of others, even if it is just a shared project or a discussion over the book we are currently reading. It’s refreshing to feel some sense of belonging in a world that lacks unity, particularly as I am a remote learner this school year. The “virtual” companionship between myself and other students that was once taken for granted has become a comforting familiarity, in a learning environment none of us expected.
As a student, I owe my teachers a debt of gratitude. They have gone more than above and beyond to include virtual learners in a hybrid classroom. My history teacher has utilized group projects that have allowed me to create friendships with students I otherwise would not have interacted with. In my English class discussions, it’s comforting to hear the familiar voices of peers that I have grown up with. In general, I have noticed increased communication between my teachers and their students. Many of my teachers have voiced their personal challenges with a mixed hybrid and remote school year; these experiences and obstacles are common to a majority of us in this unprecedented time. Collective problem-solving of these difficulties has created a unique, and I would say improved, relationship between teachers and students. The flexibility exhibited by class instructors to accommodate a virtual learner’s needs has genuinely amazed me. Technological barriers and limitations are met with great understanding, which relieves some of the academic stress related to my current learning environment. This sort of community within the “classroom” has created for me a greater connection to my teachers than I have ever had before.
Throughout 2020, the world faced division in a multitude of aspects, from political tensions to opposition regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. For some time, most of us were quite literally divided, staying home for months at a time. Having experienced time apart and a shared unfamiliar situation, I have a renewed appreciation for connection. In a virtual learning environment, it is not lost on me the importance of collaboration and unity in a time of great disconnection.
About the Author
Lilian Leggat is a junior at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is involved in student council and is currently pursuing the International Baccalaureate Diploma.