Class Acts Departments — 09 April 2021
A peek inside the new school homeroom

By Greg Carannante

City & Shore HOME Issue

During a school year reshaped by the pandemic, the word “homeroom” has had a literal meaning for many American students.

Actually, that’s been the case for most of them — 53 percent were attending school entirely from home at the end of 2020, according to an educationnext.org survey of over 2,100 parents. Another 19 percent were attending via hybrid models combining online and on-campus instruction.

Notably, while the majority of students that were enrolled in district and charter schools received all their instruction remotely, the percentage flip-flops for children attending private schools: 60 percent received their instruction in person.

So, how does the pandemic “homeroom” compare to a real classroom as a learning environment? Do students like it better — and do they like it enough, given the choice, to never return to the classroom? To get a completely unscientific but personal peek into the phenomenon, we asked a few local middle- and high-school students for their opinions on their at-home learning environment and experience. In their own well-considered words, here’s what they had to say.

Eleanor Byrd

Eleanor Byrd 

Photo courtesy

The 18-year-old senior lives and attends school in Fort Lauderdale, at Cardinal Gibbons High, where approximately half of the student body has opted for distance-learning.

What is the set-up of your at-home ‘classroom’?

I sit at my dining room table with my computer to join the Zoom meetings, and with my school iPad to take notes and do work. I have an extension cord to keep everything charged and I usually keep my water bottle next to me, so I don’t forget to stay hydrated. I have a folder for my chemistry work that we do on paper and a jar full of pencils and pens if I need them.

How does the home setup compare to the classroom as a learning environment for you?

The online learning environment at home and the classroom environment that was the norm a year ago are very hard to compare. All lectures, assignments and quizzes are done slightly differently than they were before. I think the hardest part for me is distinguishing between schoolwork and homework. It’s harder to do my homework after a full day of online school, because I’ve been sitting in the exact same spot using the same devices since 8 in the morning, and my attention will literally drift out the window next to me. I’ve found I need to create a distinction, like doing homework in the kitchen or my room, so I can refocus and actually get work done.

Do you use any websites or hacks to make online learning easier or more effective? 

I don’t really use any hacks, except faithfully writing down all my assignments in a list so I don’t forget any, and so I can cross them off and feel accomplished.

Do you stay connected with your friends from school?

I do stay connected with my friends through text messaging. And since I am a dancer, I have been lucky enough to dance at my dance studio, following Covid protocols. Seeing my friends at dance, although distanced and wearing masks, has helped me retain a bit of that normal social environment.

How has home learning affected your grades?

Home learning actually hasn’t had any effect on my grades.

Which part of home learning do you like the most? Dislike the most?

To be honest, the best part of home learning is the extra hour of sleep. :) I dislike the lack of collaboration and discussion. It still happens, but it’s definitely harder and more restrictive over Zoom.

If you could attend school from home from now on, would you want to?

I would not want to attend school from home forever. I think because of the circumstances right now, online learning is bearable. However, I am a senior about to head off to college, so I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom where it is easier to ask questions, discuss topics and interact socially.

Gavin Thornton

Gavin Thornton

Photo courtesy

The 13-year-old is a seventh grader from Weston. He attends American Heritage School in Plantation, where 30 percent of students are attending from home.

What is the set-up of your at-home ‘classroom’?

I work in two rooms. During school hours, I sit at my kitchen table and use my MacBook Air to join our Google Meet. I also use my iPad as my main device to take notes and quizzes. When school is over, I go into my room and sit at my desk to complete my homework. I have an LG monitor that connects to my other devices. My monitor is useful when I need multiple documents open. I prefer to do homework in my room because there are less distractions and it’s quieter.

How does the home setup compare to the classroom as a learning environment for you?

My learning environment is very different at home compared to the classroom. The majority of my work is completely technology-based. All of my tests and quizzes are on our computers and all interactions are virtual. I find it easier to do schoolwork at home because I am less stressed about turning assignments in on time and getting to the next classroom within a certain amount of time. However, I do find it harder to learn at home. For example, I sometimes experience Wi-Fi outages or don’t have an opportunity to be engaged in discussions. Also, there can be distractions at any time — whether it’s construction on the block, various workers on the street or just social media notifications going off.

Do you use any websites or hacks to make online learning easier or more effective? 

I use certain Google extensions to help with my learning process. One of them is called Web Paint, which allows me to highlight and quickly write notes that I can review at a later time.

Do you stay connected with your friends from school?

I stay very connected with my friends from school by meeting up with them virtually. We have multiple Discord servers where we can chat and video call when we are not in class or doing homework.

How has home learning affected your grades?

Home learning hasn’t really affected my grades. I give school the same amount of time, attention and dedication as I did when I was on campus.

Which part of home learning do you like the most? Dislike the most? 

What I like the most is that it makes it easier to have the equipment you need for school. I no longer have to worry about leaving my iPad at home or forgetting to charge my device. Everything I need is at my fingertips. What I don’t like about distance-learning are the glitches in technology. My Wi-Fi has shut down multiple times when I’m in class, and it even shut down when I was taking a quiz. At times, I can’t access the Google Meet links and have missed extra-help sessions. These situations can be difficult.

If you could attend school from home from now on, would you want to?

I wouldn’t. I miss being around my friends and having the regular experience of school. It would be great if we had the option to split our time between both.

Regina Podchaski

Regina Podchaski

Photo courtesy

The 12-year-old from Boynton Beach is in seventh grade at North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, where approximately 10 percent of Lower School and 30 percent of Upper School students are attending school fully online.

What is the set-up of your at-home ‘classroom’?

I set up a desk in my room near my window with my Chromebook and school iPad. I also hung a few reference things and fun things on the wall in front of me. My reference books and other needed items are all within reach.

How does the home setup compare to the classroom as a learning environment for you?

I have a lot more space to get organized and spread out when at home. It is a little harder to work at home because of tech glitches and because I get disconnected. Sometimes I get distracted by my siblings or the things I can do on other devices, but I manage my time well to get things done.

Do you use any websites or hacks to make your online learning easier or more effective?

I use my desk lamp to light my face so that I can have a clear picture on Zoom.

Do you still stay connected with your friends from school?

We stay in touch through Facetime during lunch and other breaks and after school.

How has home learning affected your grades?

It is a little harder to get things done, but otherwise my grades have stayed pretty much the same.

Which part of home learning do you like the most? Dislike the most?

I like being able to stay home all day and do other things when I have time. I dislike not being with my friends.

If you could attend school from home from now on, would you want to?

Yes, I would attend school from home because I can do more things at home than I can at school, like hobbies and other things.

Main photo: Shutterstock

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