Distance learning has silver-linings


Jill Wong

Community members have used distance learning to build new skills, work on projects, and hone academic growth.

Tara Singh, Staff Writer

As classes and community-wide activities have become virtual, students have lost the ability to spark up conversations in the hallways and engage in personal exchanges that were once part of daily life. Still, the Friends community has found silver linings during distance learning: producing innovative projects, learning new skills, and growing academically. 

Creativity has flourished within the community. Students now have more time to focus on improving non-academic skills: arts, sports, and eclectic hobbies. Avery Gallistel ‘24, for instance, has developed her fiber arts skills throughout quarantine. “ I have more time to do things that I love, like embroidery,” Gallistel said.

Gallistel is not the only one who has been developing new skills. Ella Ting ‘24 has been able to focus more on visual art. “I’ve drawn… more than I did during the school year [in person],” she said. 

Phoebe Backer ‘21 combined her newfound quarantine hobbies of sewing and web design. “I sewed masks and then I made a website [to distribute them]” she said. “People who needed masks could put in their address, and then people that had masks to give would then send a mask to that person’s address.”

Teachers have also embraced the spirit of innovation in their classrooms by creating engaging projects. Gallistel recounted her experience performing Sophocles’s Antigone in English class. Although students were unable to perform in the same space as their classmates, they still found ways to put on a performance. “We put screen effects to change our appearances and we all brought costumes,” Gallistel said.“Virtual learning has been a lot more successful and productive.”

Zach Dill ‘23 also highlighted the benefits of being at home for projects. “If it’s a project where you have to incorporate your own experiences it’s easier to think about what you have experienced when everything is so centered in one spot, ” he said. 

Alex Lavy, a physics, engineering, and tech teacher emphasized the advantages of at home projects. “In regular years, that ends up meaning that they bring [their projects] back and forth to school and home” he said. “They can break and that doesn’t happen quite as much now.”

Students included how much easier it is to communicate with teachers virtually. “You have easy access to teachers because you’re not really rushing to get from one class to another,” Ting said. “It’s really easy to schedule something digital.” 

Teachers also noted that technology remain a vital aspect of education post pandemic. Mark Eisenhart, Computer Science Teacher, believes students and teachers have benefited from becoming more tech-savvy. “Those skills are going to be really useful, even when we’re out of COVID –” he said. “Zoom meetings with classmates when you’re working on homework together, stuff like that. I think it’d be great.” 

Lavy also commented on the importance of building tech skills as modern learners and educators. “Online learning is part of the future,” he said. “It’s a part of how education is going to grow and hopefully democratize.” 

Students described improvements in their academic and personal welfare throughout distance learning. The new schedule, which makes all but AP  classes synchronous biweekly, grants students more time to focus on work. “We have more time to do work outside of class… and get ahead on work,” Gallistel said.

Many students also expressed their gratitude for the later start to the day. “I can sleep in until 8 every morning and get eight hours of sleep every night,” Theodore Lyne ‘23 said. 

Other students had a shared appreciation for the later start day at 8:45am. “I started going to bed a lot earlier… which is really important because I did not have as much work to do,” Backer said.

Although virtual learning has been a difficult change for the Friends community, students are still expressing their gratitude for the resilience of teachers and their peers, and are finding the silver linings during a dark time. 

Avery Gallistel ’24 shares an embroidery she made during distance learning.