Schools around the country started closing their campuses a few weeks before the March school holidays due to cases of COVID-19 in their communities. Students were told they would be learning online for those few weeks they weren’t on campus.
Then, on Sunday 22 March, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the school holidays would be brought forward a few days early, with schools across the state officially closed from Tuesday 24 March. No one knew what Term 2 was going to look like until it was announced that students in my state would be learning from home.
I’m in Year 11 this year, which is said to be the ‘trial’ year for your final year of schooling. A year for putting good study habits in place, and figuring out how you learn best, to get your goal Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) next year. This is pretty hard when you are forced to learn from home, with no face-to-face teaching and no peers around you to work with.
I’m undertaking Year 12 psychology this year, which is super content-heavy like other science subjects. It’s hard to make sure you fully understand the content when the only contact with your teacher is online. But I know it’s important to put the situation in perspective: I’m not the only one learning from home. In fact, most of the country is having to do so too.
The uncertainty and panic hit Year 12s around the country. Rumours circulated around the media about a possible Year 13, with year 11 results being used to calculate the final score or even scrapping the ATAR for this year. It was hysterical.
Not only do Year 12 students miss out on a critical term of learning, but many of the things that make Year 12 enjoyable such as formals, parties and other social events have been cancelled. The number of Year 12 students that have moved to unscored Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) subjects has dramatically increased over the past couple of months. I really feel for them, I would be a nervous wreck if I was in their situation.
I know for VCE, exams have been pushed back to December, instead of them starting in October, giving students and teachers that extra time to make up for what has been lost.
The efforts that teachers at my school have been putting in to adapt during these difficult times have been extraordinary. Whether it’s been making small videos explaining concepts or conducting interactive activities online, they’re finding ways to ensure online learning is just as engaging and supportive as the regular classroom is. All this, despite facing their own challenges and having their own families isolating at home.
Most of my family are working from home now, except for my Dad who works in an office building alone and has been practising social distancing for many years before it was a thing—a trailblazer, as he likes to call himself.
Over the school holidays, we converted our spare room into our classroom for the term. We have two desks set up, one for my brother (who is in Year 8) and one for me.
Our school day starts at 8:50am. We get our attendance marked and check emails and important notices from teachers. At 9am our first period starts. Each period runs for 45 minutes and a double lesson runs for an hour and a half.
We take our recess break at 10:30am. I generally grab some fruit and relax for 20 minutes until the next block of classes start. At 12:20pm we have ‘daily action’ which involves doing something that’s good for wellbeing, like exercising or meditating. I use this time to get away from my laptop and go for a walk.
We have lunch until 1:30pm, then have the next attendance check-in and last classes for the day. My school day finishes at 3:05pm, then I get all unfinished work or homework done for the day.
It’s a bit of an unpopular opinion but I really like online learning. I know so many other students can’t wait to get back to school and into classrooms though, and I agree with that. I miss all my friends, teachers and being able to just ask a question and get an answer straight away. But I’m very lucky to be an incredibly self-motivated person and I don’t need to be in a classroom with a teacher to get the work done on time. Right now, I’m getting all my work done faster than I would in a regular classroom, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I have no distractions around me.
At this stage, Years 11 and 12 at my school will be heading back on May 26, with Years 7-10 going back two weeks later on June 9. Schools are starting back in New South Wales and Queensland, and Australia is a step closer to getting back to reality, whatever that looks like.