It isn’t easy for the Class of 2023

Cal High’s “middle child” has problems with the daily drudgery of remote learning too

The modern Cal High students’ morning routine goes a little something like this: waking up to light filtering in through the window, brushing their teeth, rushing to grab something for breakfast, picking up their backpacks, and… dropping them right back on the floor.

Why? Because students are not leaving their bedrooms and living rooms for school.

Welcome to 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken away the hustle and bustle of normal school days. Although students are no longer rushing from class to class or planning after school activities down to the minute, everyone’s rather sedentary lifestyles have brought a fresh myriad of problems into their lives, with each grade experiencing unique challenges.

Freshmen are tasked with the navigation of a completely new school in an online setting, while juniors deal with SATs and heavy course loads. Seniors are plagued with college applications in the midst of a shutdown.

Compared to these challenges, it seems as though the Class of 2023 – the “bratty middle child” of Cal High – has it pretty easy.

“It’s the first year that we have a choice in our classes and career paths,” sophomore Kanav Bansal said. “It’s a huge step just taken away.”

Despite the outward appearance of worry-free relaxation, sophomores face their own set of hurdles outside their two-inch square on a Zoom call. Both students and teachers struggle to build a fulfilling experience that will set sophomores up for success in their high school careers.

Bansal, a dedicated tennis player, feels that online schooling has hindered his academic and athletic success. In his freshman year, Bansal made Cal’s JV tennis team and hoped to make varsity this year after training rigorously during the summer.

“It’s frustrating to work out and maintain fitness only to have it not mean anything,” Bansal said.

In addition to his athletic experience coming to a halt, Bansal explained that attending school online makes it difficult for him to absorb the content thrown at him. A hands-on learner, he feels that distractions from his phone and his surroundings interfere with his school work.

He’s not alone, and for students with a plethora of artistic and involved classes, this issue is even worse.

Sophomore Sarah Houston, who is enrolled in Cal’s theater and fashion design programs, said the shutdown has impeded her ability to pursue what she loves, from her own theater experience at Cal to her contributions outside of school. Both an enthusiastic theater student and a passionate volunteer at Iron Horse Middle School’s theater program, she feels restricted stuck at home.

“It drives me insane that I can’t go back to Iron Horse to help out with their production,” Houston said.

Sophomore students are facing a variety of challenges this school year, but they’re not the only ones struggling to build a valuable experience.

AP European History teacher Ryan Cook expressed his concerns regarding students’ issues with online learning inspiring poor work habits for students who already struggle with organizational skills.

AP Euro, which is notorious for its difficulty and immense workload, is the first AP class that many sophomores take. Unfortunately, remote learning has led teachers to cut back on the number of tests, making grades much more volatile and possibly affecting students’ success on the AP test in May.

“The unique thing for sophomores is that this is their first time taking APs, and they are asked to do a lot of things on their own,” Cook said. “It’s even more difficult to know what to cover.”

Many students have also expressed their rising concern with their AP classes.

“[AP Euro] is a really rigorous course, and there’s a lot of reading and work that goes into it,” sophomore Kavya Tharshanan said.

Like her peers, Tharshanan often struggles to keep up with the added pressure of an AP class in remote learning.

Not only is it difficult for students to manage the material, but teachers are also struggling with planning classes and teaching material. Cook said that even the simplest activities such as group projects and publishing assignments take time and effort to put together.

Although it may seem that sophomores don’t have much on the line this school year, students are worried that their first year of academic autonomy might not be as successful as they hoped.

But sophomore Tyler Duong is more optimistic about this year.

“We all have our own struggles,” Duong said. “We are trying to get used to all these new technologies, and have to readjust all over again.”

Despite having to make these adjustments, Duong believes the school is doing the best it can to help its students. While it may be hard to get back to normal, he thinks Cal can achieve it.


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