The “On-Again Off-Again” of Hybrid Learning

Maria Cifuentes, Reporter

Hybrid students are experiencing a new normal. They wake up one day to the sound of their alarm, which is set five minutes before they have to sit in front of a screen for the next eight hours. They try to keep their eyes open and click ‘join meet’. But the next day looks different for them.

       They put on their mask, which they will have to wear all day, and arrive at the school where everyone is isolated from one another. Although everything is very different now, seeing other students brings them a tiny sense of normalcy, back to when their lives weren’t completely turned upside down. 

This new school year has proven to be very different from past years. Classes have become significantly smaller, where there used to be twenty students now you only see about six desks filled with students wearing their masks. The hallways are monitored in order to make sure that everyone is social distancing. “Stay six feet apart” is the new motto this year. 

These students are following a hybrid learning structure, with a blend of online and in-person instruction. No one had ever imagined last year that this would be our school year, that this would become a normal part of our lives. When we were all forced to quarantine in March, it began with only a week and then in the blink of an eye we were stuck at home for seven months. Our lives completely changed  and we were all waiting to see what the new school year would look like. We didn’t know if we were returning or if we would ever be able to see one another again. Thankfully our high school was able to develop a system where we could be in school and remain safe. 

The hybrid learning structure is  a new concept for all the staff and students at Hampton Bays High School.  We are all still getting used to the new system and it has affected the students in many different ways. The students who chose the hybrid model, stay home three days a week and are in class for only two whereas fully remote students are home every day. Their days at home consist of sitting at their desks, in their kitchen, living room, and even their beds. They connect to their live classes for the full nine periods on their computers, unless they have study halls and lunch. 

“Being in front  of screens for an extended period of time has definitely taken a toll on me, in relation to increased headaches and sometimes my eyes hurt,” said junior Lily Heavey. For many students they experience the same thing as Lily, being on a screen for eight hours becomes draining and tiring. They also believe it makes it harder for them to focus and stay engaged; they become bored and lack motivation to continue paying attention. There is no one there to tell them to get their work done and it all seems as if it isn’t really a school day. But when their work begins to pile up, they soon realize that school is functioning just as it had in past years. The only difference is that the students sit in front of a computer at home. The students are in turn learning to be more responsible, they have to be able to stay focused and try their best.

Samantha Coulton, a junior, said, “Learning from home is kind of difficult because I feel kind of out of it when it comes to being engaged in class. I also feel like it is harder to ask questions. At home, classes can be a bit confusing.” The classes can seem confusing to the students at home because at times the internet cuts out or the teacher can’t see your questions.

The teachers are handling the situation to the best of their ability. “I have a lot of respect for the teachers and their adaptability during this time, the new technology stuff they are using now is all new,” said Heavey. 

Although the new learning structure has its downsides, the students also enjoy some aspects of their online days . Many of the hybrid students are actually grateful for being able to stay at home some days, since it allows them to wake up later and have time for themselves. 

One eleventh grader said, “On my off periods or study halls, I can just do whatever I want at home or for lunch I can eat whatever I want, and during my classes I just get in my comfortable clothes and sit in my room.” 

The remote  days have been a relief for some students. For them, it makes their week less stressful and hectic. In previous years, if you just needed a day off for your well being, you would miss class or the whole day, but now you can use the scheduled remote days as your ‘day off’, since you can stay at home and not miss any important lessons.. As students are attending class, they can snack on their favorite chips, drink water, and have their favorite music playlist playing in the back. It is truly a cool experience for them. 

 For some AP students the new hybrid structure has also been of great benefit to them. They feel as if the teachers are taking the curriculum at a much slower pace than they usually would, which is actually helpful for the students because it allows them to understand the concepts more and stay on top of things. 

But for some, the situation has caused them to become unmotivated.  Aliyah Cukaj is taking a good amount of AP classes this year as a junior and she said, “ I find that it is pretty difficult keeping up with all the work. I usually am very motivated to do my school work, but recently it has just been really hard to keep up with everything.  I’ve been saying, ‘I will just do it later, it  is not due until next week.’ Then next week comes and I barely have time to do it. It is hard to keep up with all that responsibility when I am not motivated.” 

The hybrid students also expressed that they appreciate that they are lucky enough to even go to school at all. The in-person days allow them to be around others, even if they are social distancing, seeing other students makes them feel happy and they feel it is better than being isolated at home all the time. Just the chance to hear their friends laugh again and being in a classroom, warms their hearts and fills a little bit of the emptiness that this situation has caused them. 

Many of the students also don’t mind wearing a mask all day in class and believe that the smaller classes make the lessons flow better. “The small classes have actually allowed more one on one time with teachers,” said Heavey. This allows the students to have time to ask more questions and in turn helps them learn more efficiently.

It is no secret that this year has brought many changes to the students’ lives. They have been forced  to accept that this will be their normal for a while and they have learned that good things can come out of unsettling situations. They continue to hope that one day everything will return to normal, that they will be able to see the classrooms full again and hug their friends in the hallways. But for now they are doing their best to get through everyday and giving their all to be able to say later on that they persevered through the tough times.