Freshmen 2020: A Fresh start?

Written by: Mariah

Edited by: Joaquin

Visual by: Solenne

After the first Coronavirus cases cropped up in the Philippines, schools across the country went into lockdown. ISM adopted distance learning as an alternative, resulting in an unexpected start to high school for freshmen. Adjusting to high school from middle school is challenging enough, but freshmen are now faced with a different environment, along with new teachers and heightened academic demands. Clubs and extracurriculars add on to this deluge of schoolwork. 

The situation worsens with distance learning. Freshmen have to learn new concepts through Zoom and rely on online resources. Although technology has helped teacher to student communication, it cannot replace social interaction. Freshmen don’t get to experience immersive classroom activities such as hands-on experiments and collaborative projects. Additionally, it is harder to work in groups as they are hosted in breakout rooms instead.

“From my own experience, moving to ISM was quite challenging because everything is being done online. Distance learning is a great solution to continue classes from our own homes; however, it’s more difficult than learning in a physical environment,” says freshman Isabeli, who moved to ISM this year. “Unfortunately, we have limited access to regular activities done on campus that new students would usually experience,” she adds.

Several teachers and students are scattered all over the world in various time zones. Some freshmen must undergo asynchronous learning, which makes distance learning even harder without online interaction and instant communication. “My first days of high school went well, better than I expected because distance learning isn’t for me,” states Myrthe, who is residing in The Netherlands. “I was nervous to go back to school especially because I was going to high school and [also] I am in Europe.” Furthermore, asynchronous learning can cause difficulties with adjustment and motivation resulting from different time zones. “I think that distance learning affected me [because] it didn’t motivate me to attend lessons or even wake up for school,” Myrthe adds.

Face-to-face classes have advantages that online learning doesn’t. Resources such as physical materials and teacher-student engagement would benefit freshmen in adjusting to high school. “I think that the transition from MS [middle school] to HS [high school] would feel livelier and students [would be] more involved and connected if it were face-to-face,” says Marny. “I think students are probably more likely to exert more effort and communicate better.”

However, distance learning doesn’t just carry downsides. It has also sprouted benefits, such as being able to balance both schoolwork and leisure. With the freedom of being in one’s home and more time between and after classes, students are able to focus on other hobbies and activities. ISM encourages and supports freshmen amidst online learning complications with accessible and reliable learning aid from teachers.

“Distance learning has been helping me a lot with my own time management and work organization, so I think that if it happened face-to-face, I would’ve been an disorganized and unprepared freshman,” Marny says.

“I think in some ways distance learning might have been better for me so I can focus on other things like sports,” Myrthe remarks. “Being in a different time zone might be better for me since in Manila, you don’t have any freedom anymore. Right now, I can do whatever I want and go wherever I want to, which feels great.”

“Everything may be different for the time being, but I would say my experience for the past few days has been great,” states Isabeli. “Everything is clear and organized, and everybody is welcoming; making me feel comfortable and helping me adjust as a new student.”

Transitioning to high school hasn’t been smooth, especially this year. There are other obstacles freshmen have yet to overcome as their high school journey begins. Hopefully, the pandemic will begin to subside so freshmen can experience high school in-person and adjust to the new environment. For now, ninth grade, like all of high school, will be held from a distance.