A time of turbulence: Queens students, teachers discuss pros and cons of remote learning

Studying with video online lesson at home
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Ever since remote learning was initiated in March due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, students and educators in Queens and around the city have had to adapt to the new reality of learning and teaching.

Due to the scenario’s incapability to carry out a normal school routine, scholastic systems are now relying on remote learning applications such as Google Classroom and PupilPath to communicate.

“Online learning is so much more stressful since it lacks any sort of guidance from teachers,” said Devin Xu, a sophomore from Benjamin N. Cardozo High School.

The unclear nature of the lessons, Xu claimed, has contributed to a mass confusion experienced by students in both his school and others all over the city. Such bewilderment and the irritation that comes with it has deterred many students from successfully completing their work, according to Xu.

While nearly all students agree that online lessons are perplexing, the opinions concerning the time management associated with remote learning have appeared to be controversial.

“I like the range of time that [remote learning] gives,” said Gabby Gayle, another student at Cardozo. “But many teachers are piling large amounts of work, making it hard [for us] to do anything else.”

Students attending other schools in Queens, such as Townsend Harris High School, also commented on the time frame given by online lessons.

“There are upsides, like being able to pace yourself. My [trigonometry] teacher posts videos of herself teaching, which means we can pause and rewatch as needed,” said Isabelle Borgstedt, a student at Townsend Harris High School.

The amount of time lost and in some senses, gained, through remote learning has become a major controversial topic amongst students and educators. Some, like Borgstedt, argue that while online assignments consume nearly the whole day for students, they keep students busy and focused. Others, like Gayle, claim that the endless stack of schoolwork have disturbed their personal time and hobbies.

Teachers are having an equally conflicting time adjusting to the concept of teaching and communicating only through the Internet.

“It is just horrific. My life is no longer my own. Here it is, 11 p.m., I started at 8 a.m. and I am not even half done correcting today’s papers,” a teacher at Cardozo High School said.

The teacher said that the administration also took spring break away and that she and her colleagues are constantly loaded with emails, video conferences, notes, plans and answering questions from concerned students and parents.

The endless workload is not the only burden for teachers. The shift in the scholastic routine has left educators struggling to maintain their teaching methods.

“You need new and creative ways of taking your materials that you have created and converting them online,” another teacher at Cardozo said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told QNS they understand the challenges that make it difficult for students to complete every assignment and the struggle to balance supporting students while managing work and personal responsibilities — which is why final grades will be based on a holistic view of the entire school year.

“We know students and families are juggling a lot and we are emphasizing patience and flexibility when it comes to deadlines and assignments,” said Danielle Filson, spokesperson for the Department of Education. “We are grateful to our teachers who are working hard to keep their students engaged, and we encourage both live instruction and pre-recorded lessons, so that they too can balance their time in a healthy way.”

Additionally, the city has implemented CUNY’s COVID-19 flexible grading policy for the 2020 spring semester, which means high school students who have successfully completed and earned credit for a course in June will have the option to convert a passing grade to a “credit” grade that does not impact their GPA but will still count as credit toward graduation.

While there have been several difficulties with remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, things are not all bad, and have been getting better as students and teachers continue to adapt. 

As one Cardozo teacher said, remote learning “is something we will all have to learn as we go.”

Erin Yoon is a sophomore at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School. 

Additional reporting by Angélica Acevedo.