Have we Really Returned to School?

by Sasha Rabinowitz

Students use a combination of technologies throughout their day at FSSA.

In September of 2021, students and teachers alike returned to school after more than a year of online education. Juniors and Sophomores entered the building for what seemed like the first time, and Seniors returned hoping to pick up where they left off that Friday in March of 2020. Despite being physically in person, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) teachers have expressed the concern that students are still mentally remote, noting technological distractions and a lack of classroom participation. 

This year, student FSSA instrumental major Mia Bravo entered her senior year of high school after being isolated from her friends and cut off from social interaction for almost two years. Since being back in the school building, she has noticed a change in student behavior compared to her pre-pandemic experience: classrooms fall quiet, students are focused on their laptops or phones as opposed to the lesson and participation is at an all-time low. 

“Students definitely participate less. Some classes have almost no participation and I feel like that’s really reflective of when we were all online. There wasn’t really this incentive to participate, everyone just got to keep their camera off and sit silently in class. I feel like that behavior has carried through to learning now. We didn’t have to speak before and now that we are being put back into the classroom, we feel like we have to participate and it is just off- putting. We aren’t used to it,” Mia said.

The issue seems to go beyond lack of engagement in class material as general misbehavior has become commonplace within the school building and even across the country.

Mia mentioned that student behavior appears to have gotten out of control citing the school administration’s implementation of new disciplinary protocols as a response.

Senior Art students Adamaris Sanchez and Kaylin Ruiz also notice that it has become an additional effort to participate and get involved in class activities. 

“Being on Zoom and the lack of social interaction we had during the pandemic, it’s not that people don’t know how to communicate anymore, but don’t feel the need to and just don’t want to. It takes too much energy to interact at this point, especially with teachers who demand interaction,” Kaylin commented. 

For many, an online life meant that if people did not want to make the extra effort to interact outside of their bubble, they did not have to. The experience of being forced out of that bubble and back into the classroom is uncomfortable and difficult.

Teachers are not oblivious to the difference in student engagement. Mr. Scheiner, an English teacher for both 11th and 12th grades, noted that although his students are in class, their minds are elsewhere.

“I am seeing more and more students spending time on their phones beyond doing classwork, because the distraction is constantly there. The phones, compounded with masks, have made engagement even harder, with the masks and phones becoming physical barriers that students are facing – it can also become another barrier that students hide behind consciously or subconsciously,” Mr. Scheiner said.

History teacher Mr. Sckalor agreed that students are less likely to participate in class after becoming so used to the monotony and isolation of remote learning. However, all is not lost.

“I believe that students will be able to make the necessary adjustments. We were able to adjust to online learning, I expect us to adjust to in person learning as well,” Mr. Sckalor concluded.