COVID-19 has caused numerous changes to everyone’s lives, one of those being the very way that education operates in schools. The obstacles that arose during COVID shutdowns led to innovations necessary in order to create an effective learning environment while being isolated at home. The pandemic created a nationwide experiment where schools had to adapt to conditions never experienced on such a large scale. Many were underprepared, revealing flaws in school systems, while some thrived and developed innovative modes of education despite the challenges. The pandemic highlighted the lack of resources some districts faced, and how ineffective screens can be when trying to keep students engaged. On the flip side, it gave students opportunities for learning that they would have never had, with Zoom allowing for a greater range of experiences.
Most people are now back to the in-person school experience, but many alterations have stuck and evolved. Some schools are permanently integrating online options into their curriculum, so school is more accessible to certain students. The college application process has been permanently altered, with many colleges becoming test optional, or not even accepting test scores at all. Technology has become more prominent in education, with many classes using computers on a daily basis. These changes have occurred at the Northwest School as well.
One of the more obvious additions to the community is the implementation of Canvas. Canvas was a necessary shift from Oba, allowing students to access lesson plans, projects, grades and homework all online. The general sentiment towards Canvas from students has been pretty positive, after getting over the initial annoyance of having to learn a new system. Mathilde V. ‘23 said that, “It’s an improvement from Oba, and viewing what I need to do through my calendar is very helpful.” In addition Will F. ‘23 thought it was beneficial because “It has your grades and when your assignments are due.” While Canvas has improved the Northwest School experience in many ways, it also has some drawbacks. Being able to see your grades is helpful, but can also create a competitive environment which Northwest has historically tried to avoid. “I don’t love that students get stressed out about .2 grade points on assignments. There is some middle ground between knowing when you have a C and knowing when your grade drops from a 95 to a 93,” Sarah P. in the Humanities department believes. Canvas also falls prey to the typical tech issues and human error, where due dates can be wrong, assignments don’t show up, grades drop and rise dramatically, and more. Canvas was a big tech and database change, but COVID involved social adjustments as well.
Over the course of COVID there has been a considerable decrease in class bonding and activities. While grade-level coordinators tried their best to create fun online projects where students could work together, it simply wasn’t the same. There are lasting barriers when it comes to bonding with peers after being online for a significant amount of time. With separated lunch locations and masks making it harder to connect with one another, social groups tend to become insular. Araiza S. ‘23 shares that “Pre-COVID there were a lot more group projects and interactive learning. Now, everything is a lot more isolated.” Hopefully, as COVID restrictions decrease, the bonds within the student body will grow back to pre-COVID levels.
A key component that allowed us to go back to in person education is masks. Masks help prevent the spread of disease, but they also pose certain challenges, specifically for language learning classes. Annette G., head of the language department said, “When you are teaching another language lots of gestures and movements and expressions are used. Wearing a mask has complicated that, especially with things like annunciation.” Even with the complications, Annette is “glad we have been able to sustain education in person with masks.” Despite the mask barriers, there is no doubt that “being in-person again is a huge improvement. Remote learning can be more effective for adults, but for younger people there is a social element of connecting with students that is better in person.”
The Northwest School—and education nationwide—faced many difficulties during COVID. Having the privilege of attending a private school meant that students continued to have learning opportunities throughout the pandemic. While it was hard, and the school sometimes missed the mark, we all adapted to the pandemic. Some changes were for the better, some were uncomfortable, and some were simply different. Now, there are opportunities for teachers and students to hold classes via Zoom even if they can’t be at school due to COVID, and meetings can be set up even when all participants can’t be in person. Canvas has its upsides and downsides, but it overall made communication and organization of work easier. Things will continue to be altered likely for the rest of the school year, especially with the mask mandate being recently lifted, but together we will carry on adapting to create a space where students can learn to their full potential.