Screenshot of students during Jasmine Kelly-Pierce’s freshman history class. (Courtesy of Jasmine Kelly-Pierce)
Screenshot of students during Jasmine Kelly-Pierce’s freshman history class. (Courtesy of Jasmine Kelly-Pierce)

What It’s Like When Your Freshman Year of High School is Remote

April 14, 2021

Entering high school as a freshman can be difficult. It includes finding the motivation to do schoolwork, socializing to make new friends, and getting to know several new teachers. 

Starting the year online has been even harder for many freshmen. For many students who didn’t start school alongside familiar faces, online classes are isolating, and breakout room conversations are painfully strained. Some new freshmen have struggled not only with the dullness of taking a course without friends but also the insecurity that comes from lacking a social life. 

“Overall I feel that this semester at Eastside has been a little bit tricky for me personally,” said freshman Maria Garcia. “It is a little bit hard to communicate with teachers when help is needed.” 

Maria said she feels tired from staring at her computer for so many hours, too.

“Also, I feel it is more stressful because at school we are able to go from class to class, talking to our friends and hanging out or helping each other out,” she said, “but having it remotely is less fun and having more things to worry about.” 

Maria isn’t the only freshman feeling this way. In a survey sent to the freshman class in early March, 15 students responded, with 67% saying they want more social opportunities and 30% saying more time with teachers individually, and 100% saying that there should be less homework.

What the first day of school used to look like in August 2019 (Courtesy of Eastside Facebook Page)

Freshman Jose Yophinua said that during his first semester, he had a lot of issues, but with time, some of them have worked out.

“My first semester at Eastside was a bit hectic due to the pandemic and all, but I managed to learn lots of new things here,” he said. “I have been able to communicate well with staff members and am able to talk a bit to classmates.” 

Another freshman who requested to remain anonymous said, “All the teachers are very helpful (whenever we have questions or we need clarification, they are there to solve it) and all the teachers are very joyful and energized for the day. The downside is that we have to be distance-learning, but it’s for our own good. And I come across a lot of technical difficulties.” 

Many freshmen commented that they would like more social opportunities where they would get to interact with one another, and more hands-on activities in class, such as in science classes where projects could be done outside.  

COVID-19 has stunted communication amongst many freshmen and affected their perspective on Eastside as they finished their first semester at Eastside. Despite the pandemic, they have managed to get through the process of having to deal with school, they hope there can eventually be much more social interactions as well as hands on activities.

Teachers of freshmen said that one of the problems for freshmen this year was that they didn’t have Summer Bridge in person. 

“The teachers who do prep work during the summer try to get students comfortable, too,” said Physics teacher Craig Young. It’s “just not the same when they don’t know each other and they haven’t done the activities during the summer and haven’t seen each other for six weeks during the summer, and they don’t have that background.” 

Craig and History teacher Jasmine Kelly-Pierce both said that one of the biggest challenges has been figuring out how to help freshmen socialize and develop friendships.  Craig has tried using Advisory time to play games like Scribbio, but wishes he had been able to do more earlier to build relationships with freshmen.

Jasmine also said she wished she had done more at the start of the year. 

“I really did work hard to build community and some things worked while others failed,” she said. “Maybe I could’ve spent the first couple weeks doing community-building.”

 Jasmine said she uses breakout rooms and checks in with her students so that they know she is paying attention to them. Also, she has prioritized socializing and friendship-building.

“In first semester, I tried, I like tried really hard to get them to be friends,” Jasmine said.

Now she has daily check-ins.

“My goal for the question of the day is that in those moments, I want them to feel less alone and that there may be a possibility of friendship,” she said.

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What It’s Like When Your Freshman Year of High School is Remote