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Kalamazoo junior shares what virtual school is actually like

Selfie picture of Jane, wearing glasses and hair tired up in pigtails.
Courtesy Photo

We’ve heard a lot about schools and the pandemic this year. We’ve heard about how some schools stayed in person and how some didn’t. We’ve heard from teachers and parents about what’s working and what isn’t in this strange school year.

But we wanted to hear more from someone who is in the thick of this whole mess. Jane is 16 years old and lives in Kalamazoo. She’s been recording audio diaries for the past few weeks on what virtual school is actually like.

Virtual school just doesn’t feel like school

“Today was a great example of my usual routine in the morning because I woke up at 8:58 and then I put my headphones on and I have my school laptop like right next to my bed. So I just literally just went to my slam poetry class from my bed.

“But beyond my new routine, there's been one huge change: every day is the exact same and has been the exact same since March 13, 2020. Every day is so boring.

“It's just so much easier to get burnt out because of no variation, and it just feels like you're doing the same exact thing every day. I get out of bed and I go to school seven feet away from my bed. And even if I'm changing location a little bit, I could go lay down in that [bed] if I wanted to right now and my teachers wouldn't know. 

Two computers situated on a desk, one on top of an encyclopedia.
Credit Courtesy Photo
Jane's virtual school set up.

“Virtual school just doesn’t feel like school at all.

“Before, I had school, Model United Nations, I was in a play, and a musical, not to mention family obligations and an actual social life. I was busy and it felt like too much but at least I was engaged.

“Now highlights of the day are video games and cooking lunches for myself.

FOMO is real

“The other day, I recorded [my mom, Katie, and me] at the Starbucks drive through. We got to talking about school the past year.

Katie: What do you think that you have lost your junior year not being in school in person? Jane: Um, a lot of learning. Katie: Yeah, you don’t think you’ve learned as much? Jane: My stats exam is going to go horribly just because it's really hard for me to learn math through a computer.

“But there’s something else I’ve lost. Something my mom pointed out.

Katie: Sometimes when I come in your room and you're playing video games, I feel sad. Jane: Well, I like to play video games. Katie: I know, but it’s like you should be leaving the house on a Friday night and being like, I'll be back at curfew.

“She’s right. I’ve missed out on a lot of the experiences 16 year olds get to do. I haven’t driven around aimlessly with my friends on Friday afternoon or spend three hours at Denny’s just goofing off.

Jane: yeah I do kind of wish I could have that sort of thing. Next year, next year I will party all the time. Katie: No!

“Okay, I mean I play video games on a Friday night, I’m not actually trying to party. But I am looking forward to getting my life back. I’m graduating high school next year so I got to make it a good one.

Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.
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