Students and teachers reflect on the past year of quarantine

April 1, 2021 — by Howard Shu
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Photo by Kathryn Nakamatsu

Pictured here are some of the things chemistry teacher Kathryn Nakamatsu has been working on during the shutdown

 

Freshman Simarya Ahuja: 

Q: How have your classes changed since the start of the shutdown last March?

A: Most of my teachers utilize breakout rooms almost every time we meet, which makes me feel less like I'm aimlessly staring at a screen all day. However, some of my teachers rarely use breakout rooms, so I feel like I've had less of a connection with my peers in those classes. 

Not having as much social interaction has definitely made me feel less motivated to pay attention in class because online school is boring without sharing laughs with my classmates whenever our teachers say something funny or whenever some students bring their on-point comedy and positive vibes to every class.

Q: How have your attitudes and work ethic shifted since the start of the shutdown?

A: My attitude and mindset have definitely taken a negative turn since the pandemic hit in the sense that I feel more tired during online classes as compared to in-person learning, which has led me to feel less motivated to pay attention and more tempted to listen to music or text my friends. However, as the new school year started, I found myself wanting to pay attention more because I kept telling myself that schoolwork and grades matter more in high school than they did when I was at Redwood. It took a lot of willpower at first to not multitask, but slowly I was able to pay more attention in class.

 

Freshman Ryan Lin:

Q: How have your classes changed since the start of the shutdown last March?

A: I think that even though we’re doing online learning, I am still learning a lot. My overall experience of being in class has changed because during in-person learning when we do group work, people actually talk. During online learning, when we go to breakout rooms for our group work, nobody really talks. We just do the work in silence.

Q: What have the positive and negative aspects of the shutdown been? What do you miss about being in-person?

A: I have more time with family and more time to do things. I play golf, which is still open, so I can still meet people and talk to them, and I don't really feel isolated. I miss traveling though. I used to travel a lot, but now I can't really go anywhere without having to quarantine. I visit my grandparents in Taiwan every year, but now I can't go see them. 

It's also hard to connect with teachers because you have to email them, and you can't just walk up to them and ask them your questions. 

I've heard about interesting things like clubs in high school, but I can't really experience them.

 

Sophomore Caden Lee:

Q: What have the positive and negative aspects of the shutdown been? What do you miss about being in-person?

A: I think that at first it was kind of hard to do stuff on my own all the time and not see people in person, but now that I look back, I feel like I learned a lot about myself and how to work like to not get tired out and give breaks to myself.

Q: How have your attitudes and work ethic shifted since the start of the shutdown?

A: I think I am more independent while working. My level of understanding started out pretty bad, but I got used to online lectures.

 

Chemistry teacher Kathryn Nakamatsu:

Q: How have your classes changed since the start of the shutdown last March?

A: The content hasn't changed too much.  With each chapter, Ms. Lenz and I may have removed one or two things that we thought were not as important for [students] to know …. In terms of structure, I would normally lecture in class more. This year, students are listening to recorded lectures before class, and then I use guided practice and/or warmups to see how well they understood the lecture. That's different and something that I will probably continue to do post-pandemic. 

The experience is completely different. I miss seeing groups working collaboratively on labs and problem sets in class.  While students are doing that in their breakout rooms, I don't get to watch it unless I pop into their breakout room.

Q: What have the positive and negative aspects of the shutdown been? What do you miss about being in-person?

A: I am unusual in that I am pretty comfortable with shutdown and kind of a homebody. I don't mind being at home. In normal years, I usually travel all summer because my husband (a professional concert pianist) performs at festivals. Last summer was my first summer at home for 13 years, and it was a little sad.

Q: How have your attitudes and work ethic shifted since the start of the shutdown?

A: I'm definitely working more this year. With everything online, it's hard to escape work. Doing a lot of new labs meant more work and having to put a lot of my stuff online; I'm a paper-and-pencil kind of teacher. When we shut down in March, I was working from home and could easily work 12 hour days. I had to put a stop to that. That's one of the reasons I teach from my classroom. It helps to physically shut the door and leave work at work.