The most important part of the high school experience is community building. This is usually accomplished through face-to-face interactions. During distance learning, the concept of a classroom community has been thrown out of the window. To relieve part of this issue, participation must be better mandated in the online classroom.
It is extremely difficult for teachers to gauge the type of students in their class when they appear as mere grey boxes on a Zoom call. Teachers have repeatedly stated that they do not know their own students even after three months into the school year. Getting to know each other on a personal level is the first and most important step to establishing a student-teacher relationship, which helps cultivate a healthy learning experience, where the teacher and student both grow as people. Teachers cannot meet students’ needs if they are unable to communicate with them.
Another problem that students are facing this year is the lack of communication with peers. What was once sitting at tables and having a discussion has been replaced with silent breakout rooms. The flow of different ideas and schools of thought are gone, and students are left to contemplate a problem by themselves. It is now more difficult for those who prefer group learning to thrive in school because there are no more opportunities for effective cooperation. This fact comes along with many other obstacles that today’s students are facing, such as the complete inability to create a friendship in a different environment, where somebody’s personality is hidden behind a gray wall.
Although some students may be introverts or face screen anxiety, the only way that they will overcome that obstacle is by taking it head on, instead of hiding behind a screen. If a student was able to go through class without participating, it would be a different story when they enter college and then the workforce. High school, an institution that claims its goal is to prepare teens for the future, is completely failing at its job by allowing teens to attend four hours of schooling per day without participating in a single class. All this can be alleviated if students and teachers need to encourage participation in class to create a more productive classroom experience.