As the end of the virtual school year rapidly approaches and summer programs begin to close, the ambiguity of school in September looms. It’s hard to imagine learning for an entire beginning of a school year on a computer screen. It was difficult for teachers to assess students this year on Zoom, even after teaching them in person for the majority of the school year. Meeting new teachers, learning new subjects, and transferring into new classes pose even more difficulties if school continues to be held online in September. Students and teachers alike agree that learning through a computer screen is less than ideal, especially at the beginning of a new school year. Is staying at home for so long even healthy?
Ramaz students have a variety of opinions and suggestions for the administration if school must remain closed in September, and possibly even longer. Everyone hopes to return to school for a fresh, new school year and a sense of normalcy. However, students understand that the safety of everyone in the building is a priority to the school and our community.
Some students think that in the absence of in-person classes in the fall, Ramaz should continue with the same Zoom system as this semester, but there is a question of the type of grading system for next year. Students feel that they should have new teachers next year and switch classes, even though it might be difficult to build a teacher/student relationship. Rachel Freilich ’22 explained, “If we don’t have real school in September, I’ll be devastated but not surprised. I would want new teachers because I think changing teachers is something to look forward to. I think we would have to continue with Zoom as that is the only option.” Students have begun to adjust to life from home and school through a computer screen, understanding that online classes are more effective than having no classes at all. Sydney Eisenstein ’22 added, “I think that if we don’t have school in September, we should definitely continue learning on Zoom. As it will be a new school year I think that we should have new teachers. The teachers may not know each of us well if we are not in the classroom, so I think it would be fair to switch to a pass/fail grading system.”
However, an entire school year with pass/fail grades is a controversial suggestion in the minds of both students and teachers. Students at Ramaz work hard to achieve academic success and take pride in their grades. By switching to a pass/fail system, many students will lose the motivation to excel in classes and put their best effort into assignments. Hannah Dubroff ’21 explained, “We should have regular grades because otherwise, it messes up the GPA. Just because other schools have pass/fail, doesn’t mean it’s better for them. In fact, I think it makes us as a school look better.” Ditching letter grades for a semester, and especially an entire school year, has repercussions for students who are relying on their school grades for college, especially for juniors whose grades can really impact their future college acceptances. Sophie Schwartz ’23 sympathizes with the incoming freshmen given the uncertainty of next school year. She asserted, “We should institute a pass/fail grading system if we continue with online classes next year. Especially for incoming high schoolers, it will be hard to adapt and we should not be graded under those circumstances.”
Other students think that the current Zoom learning system and schedule would require significant modifications if continued into next year. In addition to changes in the timing of the schedule, most students agree that they should be placed into new classes next year with new teachers, rather than keeping the same teachers from this year
Emily Rosenfeld ’22 explained, “I think that Zoom classes are working well and I am still learning a lot. However, I find that the hour-long classes are way too long and it’s really hard to focus, especially when having to stare at a screen. I love the teachers I have now, but I understand if we have to get new teachers because we are learning the new grade’s curriculum. Although, I agree that it’s difficult to start with new teachers without meeting them in person.” Jordan Mittler ’22 agrees that changes to the schedule are necessary if online classes become a more permanent practice. He added, “Ramaz should re-arrange the schedule so the length of each class and the amount of times we have each class a week more closely resembles what we would do in normal school.”
Entirely new formats and platforms were suggested by students in an attempt to improve virtual learning efficiency if needed next year. Samara Blatt ’22 suggested that “Instead of [live] Zoom we should have pre-recorded video lessons with a small assignment afterward so that we can have more free time throughout the day. Students with questions can leave comments on the videos for the teachers to answer and respond.” Other students recommended daily assignments on Google Classroom in place of the daily Zoom classes.
There are many opinions, suggestions, and concerns regarding a virtual beginning of the new school year. Zoom is not an ideal learning environment for most students and teachers, but if necessary, new policies will be administered in September.