Freshman vs. Seniors - A Comparison

Samika Varma

For the purpose of this article, I interviewed two students: a twelfth grader and a ninth-grader. As a ninth-grader, I felt as if virtual school was helpful, rather than dreadful. I was able to have a smooth transition. I had enough time to get used to the amount of work we received, which definitely felt more intense than last year, and required so much more effort.

I’m a very out-going person, and being isolated from most of my friends hasn’t been easy.I miss going to school physically and seeing my friends but considering that this is a precaution we’re taking to stay safe and ensure that others are as well, I’m glad we’re all able to accommodate at home. As a sibling to an upperclassman, I couldn’t help but realise that what I considered “extra time”  affected her negatively. She was missing her last year of high school and struggled to  find a balance between her social  life and her academic one. Through her eyes, it was a repetitive cycle of work, and her breaks would just be another excuse to look at a screen, which was another negative outcome of virtual learning. This inspired me to look at two different perspectives, similar to my own experience, and acknowledge the comparison between two different people with no connection to each other. Here is what I asked Amina El Sheikh and Shaila Prasad, two high school students at AES:

Question 1:  What is one thing you found most difficult about transitioning from the previous grade to now?

Amina: I found it difficult having more classes now than in middle school, and I felt stressed as I had never been in high school. Even before Covid-19 I was scared about it but adding online school to it made it much scarier as I had no idea what to expect rather than if we had done it in person.

Shaila: I think transitioning from 11th to 12th grade was specifically hard, first of all, because it was online, although the workload was relatively similar. Starting off online meant that I started off my senior year without motivation really, there was no big start to the year, and so it was a lot less exciting and felt more like a chore. Just beginning college apps made the year a little more stressful because even though when we start the senior year, college apps weren’t really in full swing. Still, the first semester of senior year is always associated with a tough balance between applying to college and keeping up your grade; we couldn’t really relieve our stress socially, which made it extra difficult.

Question 2: What were some difficulties of being in a different environment academically and socially?

Amina: At first, it was a hard transition as I was not used to zooming and was stressed whether my WiFi would glitch or that anything could happen, as I had never gone online before. I worried communication would not be the best online, educationally. So far, I think the communication has been excellent due to the circumstances and much better than expected. But socially, I, of course, miss my friends, school, and learning in person and the thought that I’m missing out on so much right now makes me sad


Shaila: I think academically, this was probably one of the worst semesters so far because everything is just in one room in your house, and you go from one class to the other, and you don’t leave your seat. It just really made me tired by the time school was over, and it ended up with me procrastinating pretty badly, and it was something I had to intentionally work on in order to get work done. I think that this outcome of working online could’ve been relieved if we were able to meet our friends. Still, having to stay at home for obvious safety reasons, I lost my energy and motivation to work on school and maintain my communication with my friends. This impacted my ability to start the year off strong.

Question 3: What made you feel most comfortable during the transition?

Amina: I found the first two weeks,given with time zone teams, comforting as we were getting to understand everything. It was comforting to get to know the new environment and how everything will work instead of getting right into it without understanding anything, and it minimised the stress.

Shaila: To a certain extent, I guess it was comforting to see that a lot of seniors were facing the same challenges that I was going through senior year online. It helped me validate that I wasn’t just being lazy, and it really was just difficult transitioning into the senior year.

Question 4: Did you notice any developments in work routines or find yourself more motivated? If yes, why? If no, what was affecting you?

Amina: I found myself less motivated at first as I was at home and had my phone, and I wasn’t the most productive, as it didn’t feel like I had school. But later on, as I started getting used to the transition and we have gotten more into the year, my motivation has increased.

Shaila: I definitely think that I was less motivated, which was tough because this semester is pretty crucial regarding motivation and just keeping up with your schoolwork.But, as college apps got closer, my motivation to finish those definitely increased, but was still really difficult to balance having no motivation for online school but wanting to finish my college apps and make sure I’m balancing my time appropriately. This is something I’m still struggling with as college apps continue throughout the semester.

Question 5: What is one thing the school did that helped you have a smooth transition? What could they have done differently?

Amina: At first, I felt stressed due to time zone differences, and I was unsure whether I would have gotten the right experience as I would not be able to attend all classes. But I found having the teacher's calendly open and the teachers leaving a recording of the zoom calls has been very useful and has minimised the stress and has made the transition much more comfortable. I think maybe if more teachers added more context to recordings, as usual, it's hard to understand what is going on in the recordings; it would help. If they also shared more information on slides or resources, as they usually leave blank areas for discussions in the zoom call, which I'm not able to attend, it would make the experience much better.

Shaila: Although the PSA is a parent-run program, their gesture of just simply sending us bronies for just being seniors honestly made me a lot happier than I expected, and I really, really appreciate it. Sometimes I felt like our time wasn’t being used efficiently as students, I completely understand the difficulties in moving to online learning in the perspective of the teachers and online school.But,with the amount of energy that online school ends up taking from us, I just felt like some classes were unnecessarily long and could’ve been used much more productively.

Question 6: What are you looking forward to most this year?

Amina: I’m looking forward to going back to regular school, seeing my friends again, finally meeting my teachers in person, and getting the actual high school experience.

Shaila: Honestly, I’m looking forward to the second semester. I’m looking forward to submitting all of my college applications and being able to just relax for a little bit. I know that next semester is important, and I’m usually always looking forward to minicourse, but knowing that that won’t be possible, I’m just looking forward to a little more freedom and less stress.

Question 7: What have you accomplished that has made you most proud?

Amina: I’m proud of how I transitioned much quicker than I expected and how well I have handled this problem facing our way.

Shaila: Having spent so much time at home, I think it’s just made me realise that some things are more important than others and that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on things that bring me down. School is already stressful enough right now and honestly, my biggest accomplishment would just be that I’m looking at going back to school in a new light and focusing on the things that make me happy.

Seeing two different perspectives was really important to me. It helped me acknowledge that although everyone is struggling, some people are genuinely affected more than others. It’s hard being a senior student and not having access to all the privileges that come with it. It’s also hard being a ninth-grade student at AES and not knowing where to go.