Returning virtual learners reflect on last year’s experiences, their transition back to in-person

Please turn off your microphones. Please join the Microsoft teams meeting on time.

These were familiar phrases for Bearden students who opted for virtual learning in the 2020-2021 school year. 

For these students, their school year was characterized by Chromebooks, Canvas assignments, Microsoft Teams, and isolation. After adjusting to learning from home as their new normal, many virtual students are back at Bearden High School for the first time in a year and a half.

The abrupt change of going from years of in-person learning to virtual forced students to make their own schedules and stick to them in order to be successful.

“At first, it was weird because I would wake up later and just log on to my computer instead of getting ready to actually go to school,” junior Allie Nolan said. “After the first few weeks, I got into a routine which definitely helped me a lot.”

Through trial and error, some virtual veterans reflect on at home learning as a time they developed essential, real world skills that set them apart from those that were not thrown into the fire of virtual learning.

“I used the whole experience as a learning experience, and being virtual has taught me time management skills that I do not think I would have acquired if I was in-person,” Nolan said. 

While Nolan had a successful outcome from virtual learning, senior Hadi Bhidya had a different experience with his time of at home instruction.

“I fear that [virtual learning] maybe made me more lazy as a student because it felt more like I was just doing assignments and getting grades rather than learning, but hopefully that is not the case,” Bhidya said.

Nolan and Bhidya were already established in high school before the pandemic spread across the globe, making the transition from virtual back to in-person learning not as overwhelming.

“The transition back to in-person was very easy for me, but I know it wasn’t for most people, so I feel blessed that I was able to do it,” Bhidya said.

Freshmen from the class of 2025 who opted for virtual learning last year did not have the opportunity to pre-establish themselves at Bearden before having their learning environment swept from underneath them. 

Lilly Watt was in 7th grade preparing for spring break the last time that she stepped into a school building before opting for virtual learning due to COVID-19.

“For the weeks leading up to the first day, I was very worried and stressed about starting high school,” Watt said. “It’s really not as much of a dramatic change as I expected it to be.

“I’ve always been told by my friends and family that I am a very mature person for my age, so that might be a role in how I feel.”

When looking back at her virtual experience, Watt believes that she made the wrong decision.

“I think I would choose to go in person if I could change it,” Watt said. “I didn’t have the best grades last year, and I blamed it a lot on the fact that I just wasn’t smart enough to be taking my classes since I was failing a few of them for the first time.

“I’ve very quickly realized after going back that it just wasn’t the case. I’ve been back for 3 weeks, and I already understand everything so much better. My grades are back up to where they have been my whole life, so it really just shows that virtual was the reason for my worsened performance.”

As this school year continues to progress, students reflect on how lucky they are to be back in person.

“Virtual school made me very thankful to have a nice school with a ton of teachers who are willing to help me when I need it,” Nolan said. “Not having that was my biggest struggle last year.”