Should I turn on my camera? What if my voice and mouth don’t sync up, that would be embarrassing. No, that takes up too much bandwidth. Should I unmute myself? What if I lag? What if I have to repeat myself? No, I won’t unmute.
These were some of the thoughts that spiralled in my mind whenever I tried to participate in a class last year on Zoom. During distance-learning, these thoughts inhibited my participation. But somehow, they also prepared me for senior year.
How could something that weighed me down also help prepare me? The last time we met in person, I found it hard to raise my hand to ask a question or share a thought. When we moved into Zoom classes, I knew that unmuting myself made me anxious, so I relied on the chat function to ask questions and share ideas. Sometimes, I couldn’t type fast enough to answer a question first or to ask a question before we switched topics, and I really felt I missed out.
Now that we’re back in person, I no longer feel so shy about raising my hand. And without the added anxiety of Zoom technology that might let me down, I feel the weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I feel this hunger to participate, to ask my questions and not sit idly by. Learning that time is precious and having built a habit of asking questions through the chat is now allowing me to ask questions in Advanced Biology and Senior College Prep in a way that I don’t think I could have done without the time spent trying to learn on Zoom.
A similar story has been happening in my discussion-based classes. Having rarely participated in Socratic seminars during my junior year on Zoom, my teachers might find it surprising that I consistently share ideas during Socratic seminars in Senior English and SRI! Despite not having participated vocally in the past, I had always done the prep work, so that wasn’t the issue. This year, when it came for my first Socratic seminar in Senior English, I had done my prep and found myself participating with only a bit of slight hesitation and a degree of liberty that I hadn’t felt for more than a year.
Don’t get me started with math! Math was probably the class where I sat most quietly last year — sorry, Juan! It was harder to participate in the chat in Math last year, and when the opportunity for help arose during review sessions, I had already given up. So this year, when I realized I would have a math tutorial with Marianne for Calculus BC, I took advantage of it. I have been asking more questions on review packets and working through problems with her help.
Participation has always been an area of growth for me, so when Amy Reilly, my Senior English teacher, gave me 20/20 and four check marks on my Socratic seminar, I felt so proud of myself. I shared this achievement with Jemima Oso, my previous advisor, and Dorothy Boakye-Donkor, the weekend RF. Jemima was my RF for my sophomore and junior year and she knew how much I struggled to participate. So, when she told me she was proud of me and said she was tearing up, I felt overwhelmed. It held so much meaning for me, that I even kept the post-it note from Amy! Additionally, when one of my friends told me that she noticed my growth in participation, I felt super-accomplished because something I have had trouble with has now become one of my strongest qualities.
Being in person after the insights of distance-learning has allowed me to make a 360-degree change. It feels liberating to not have technological barriers preventing me from participating smoothly in class, and it feels liberating to have set aside the uncertainty and shyness that kept me from participating before technology was even a factor. Now that I don’t have those technological and psychological restrictions, I love taking advantage of the learning environment.