Students in Richmond are adjusting to virtual learning. Some are struggling to maintain their class schedule while others are succeeding, despite the challenges.

Students participate in mandatory learning at school, while at home. Classes feel optional to many of them. Students can easily not participate by not signing in every day. They do not sign on for multiple reasons, but it is more common for them to not sign in to catch up on previous assignments or to take a self-care day. These students worry about missing lessons but hope that they will be able to catch up later on through independent learning. And some students who sign on struggle to learn.

Mia Quezada, 16, junior, De Anza High

“I am having a hard time learning because I learn better when I am in class,” said Mia Quezada, 16, a junior at De Anza High School. “The teacher is there and you just raise your hand for help, but at home, I have to send an email after email for help, making me lose interest in wanting to continue doing my work. At this point, I just join the Zoom, listen, then go to sleep afterward and forgetting everything I learned and what I was supposed to do,” she said.

There are also students who are handling this learning situation better.

“I am actually learning in my classes because I push myself,” said Angelica Garcia, 17, a senior at Leadership Public Schools. “I think to myself ‘It’s my final year, I can do this. It’s a necessity.’ I just give myself that push to learn as it will help me know what I am doing with my homework, making my workload easier to get by. I may not learn right then at the moment, but with the pushes I am giving myself, I can teach myself,” she said.

Angelica Garcia, 17, senior, Leadership Public Schools

Volumia Parker, 16, a junior at Richmond High said students at Richmond High spend six hours a day, excluding lunch, on virtual learning, which is two hours less than what students used to experience when they were at school. This schedule does not correspond with all high schools in Richmond, but they all have the same, or similar structure.

Volumia Parker, 16, junior, Richmond High

“It is a bit difficult to keep up because even with an easy schedule, we have so much to keep up with. I have to do the assignments but also teach myself things that teachers don’t teach. I want to give up on some of it, but my mom gives me support so I can continue,” she said.

Some students are forming strict schedules for themselves to keep from going off track during virtual learning.

“It is hard for me to focus sometimes, but I have created a schedule that keeps me busy,” said Alejandra Garcia, 16, another junior at Richmond High.  “I spread out my work for me to complete on different days so I don’t tire myself out trying to do everything in one day. I do the work either during the period we are given to do work or straight after my last class. I also listen to music while doing it because it also helps me concentrate. This schedule keeps me aligned with my classes.”   

Alejandra Garcia, 16, junior, Richmond High

Although maintaining a schedule is a big part of virtual learning this year, setting goals that students want to reach keeps them going during their classes.

“I try to keep myself motivated by setting basic goals that I want to complete,” aid Austin Chao, 17, a senior at Richmond High. “These goals are things like ‘Do your homework before 9 p.m.’ or ‘Get a C or above in every class.’ It keeps me motivated in learning this year because I don’t want to see myself fail over something that can be done, whether it was easy or not,” he said.

Jesus Mora, 16, junior, Richmond High

“School is not enjoyable for me right now because I am often flooded with work and I can’t concentrate, but I am trying to make my work more interesting to keep me motivated,” said Jesus Mora, 16, a junior at Richmond High.

Schools have also set up clubs over Zoom so they can still participate in extracurriculars. Many students are grateful for this, but clubs aren’t the same as they were before. Mora said that having only virtual club participation is challenging.

“Marching band is a huge thing at Richmond High that they allowed us to still participate over Zoom, but I feel that band has lost its biggest piece of the puzzle, which is interaction,” he said “Not having interaction, makes an environment where people are adamant to adapt to the lockdown so people end up doing nothing and not practicing their instrument. This is bad because once it is time to play altogether  in person again, we won’t be as skilled as before.” Mora is also in robotics where he said, “Since quarantine started, we had to figure out a way to move the program along. Team 841, our robotics club, has made an effort to try to get everyone to continue these projects at home as they give us the material we need, but with our current environment, everyone does not have time to work on robotics, including myself,” Mora said.

Clubs are not only difficult to manage at Richmond High, but they are also difficult in multiple other high schools.

“I am a member of several clubs, an officer in most of those,” said Misha Sitchon, 16, a senior at De Anza High School. “We have completed a club rush event over Zoom, which was different, odd, and in the beginning extremely confusing. It’s harder to interact during meetings with the members making it awkward to work with one another on top of trying to increase club participation!”

Misha Sitchon, 16, senior, De Anza High

It can be hard to speak in a virtual classroom where everyone is completely silent, besides the person hosting the meeting. This silence and awkwardness don’t go unnoticed. Teachers are also struggling with this as well.

“The part I most struggle with is interaction and relationships with students,” said Pat Noonan, a social studies and psychology teacher at Richmond High. “Distance learning is more normal for me than it is for them, but I feel like they feel the same as me. I am trying to get the students to use their video camera, share their screens, share their questions, and responses. I am trying to make it feel that when we work on assignments that I am walking around the desks to help them with their questions. I am trying to make it feel like a normal classroom, but I miss seeing their faces and laughing with them, joking with them, and just having conversations with these students,” he said.