By Emily Fleming-Berry
Yesterday, I finished remote learning for Year 12. If all goes according to plan, on Monday I, along with everyone else in Year 12, Year 11 and Year 7, will be released back into the wild. The week after, the rest of the student body will follow. We will return to Some Semblance of Normalcy™, as so many of my school emails have declared, but after reflecting on my time learning in isolation, it seems to me that now is actually the perfect time to make what used to be normal even better.
Expectation vs reality
Learning at home will be great, I thought to myself, I’ll finish everything by lunchtime and then spend the afternoon however I want. Day 1: this did not happen. It has not happened since. I was naively optimistic, both about my own superhuman studying abilities and the amount of work that would be set for me. Teachers, from my own experience and the experiences of my friends, seemed to assign more work than what we would normally be doing in class. While it’s true that studying at home eliminates the kind of activity that can be a black hole for lesson time, it can be very challenging to sit down for a full 50-minute class with no break. Coupled with my desire to extend myself and fully answer each question, this meant that completing everything was often quite stressful. Often, I ended up simply dedicating too much of my time to school.
The scenario mentioned above resulted in an unhealthy blurring between the lines of my school life, and my home life. Having the dining room table as my new school desk created what was, for me, an unforeseen challenge: it was difficult to ‘switch off’ come finish time; difficult to draw the line and separate my study and my leisure time. School began to encroach into what would normally be my time on the bus, my time walking home, my time just relaxing after a school day… because now where I Iived was school.
To add to the exhaustion this caused, I really missed socialising: my friends, of course, and also all of the incidental interactions school provides. Suddenly I was no longer sitting next to anyone, chatting on the bus, or catching up before class. Humans are social creatures, after all.
We’re also not sedentary creatures. At-home learning necessitated sitting down and staring at a computer screen for most of my day. If you want to be shocked to your feet, follow this link. Here’s the line that really stands out for me:
Approximately 2 million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity, prompting WHO to issue a warning that a sedentary lifestyle could very well be among the 10 leading causes of death and disability in the world.
I’ll leave that with you.
The unexpected benefits of remote learning
At this point, it’s only fitting to employ an ice-skating metaphor: every time I go on the ice, without fail, I am atrocious. Clinging to the rail, moving backwards just as much as I’m moving forward… it’s like I’ve never done it before. By the end, though, about ten minutes before we leave, I’ve figured it out. As everyone is taking off their skates, I am gliding (in a forward direction!).
This is what learning from home has felt like. Initially, there were countless challenges — but once I’d fallen flat on the ice, dragged myself back up and let go of the guide rail, it was genuinely enjoyable. My time management and prioritisation skills improved immeasurably, and I’ve now adjusted my schedule to allow for more ‘me time’. When I would normally be walking back from the bus, I walked with my mum or worked out. There was baking — quite a bit of it. My family all talked more. I held impromptu dance parties with the dogs.
Looking towards my own my ‘new normal’
Learning at home has taught me a lot: about school, myself and this crazy, wonderful world we live in. This experience has revealed my support network, which I think we should all work on moving forward It’s shown me how school can be more flexible, and made me look at my study line in a new light.
Most of all, the biggest impact of learning from home has been having to convince my concentration-zapped, bored, annoyed self why I’m still doing this work, and realising in the process that education is an investment in my future. To me, this has all proven that learning is possible anywhere, anytime, under whatever crazy conditions fate throws at us — and it’s worth it.
This article has been edited.