Editor’s note: This letter is in response to Atlanta Public Schools’ decision to remain with online-only classes until January and was written originally as an essay to the school and school district. The district has been holding virtual instruction since the 2020-21 academic year started in August.
Hello. Our names are Ava Lambert and Amelia Teeple and we are sixth-grade students at Atlanta Classical Academy in Buckhead. Lately, we have been trying to do homework together over Zoom and Google meets, but it just isn't the same as doing it together face to face.
This year there have been some new students in our classes, and we can’t even imagine what it's been like for them for their first quarter at our school. We try to make them feel welcome, because we’re glad to have them in our classes, but it's hard to become someone's friend when you don't really get to see them. It's the same with our teachers. We want to get to know them, but, like we said, it's hard to get to know someone when you only see them on Zoom.
Amelia’s mom is also our school’s math coordinator, which means that she teaches math for kindergarten through sixth grade. She has been working so hard to try to keep order in the zoom classrooms. There have been a few times she has taught our classes. Everyone in our school is trying their best to get through this, but sometimes it's just hard to figure out how to create a Google form for a test, or to figure out how to mute yourself on a Zoom meeting. Our point is that everyone is hoping that they’ll soon go back to school, even if we do have to wear a mask and social distance.
When you are at a school building, there are less distractions than when you are at your house. Also, some of the students in our classes have been having WiFi problems. At school, we don't just disappear from the classroom like we do on Zoom if we are disconnected. Background noises are a real problem as well. It is hard to hear others because of this. Whether your dog is barking, or you share a room with your sibling, it is hard to hear anything. At school, even if there is not a mute button for a student, there is never really a loud noise like there might be at your home.
Also, sometimes if you have a question, it’s almost impossible to get the teacher to see your hand. And sometimes even if you raise the virtual hand, it is never guaranteed to work. When you are in a classroom, a teacher has a full view of everyone, whether they are in the back or in the front. And when a teacher is trying to use the whiteboard, the mouse is never the best writing tool, and it is hard to understand.
Our school has given iPads to the teachers to help with this issue, but that poses a different problem. It makes it even harder to see students raising their hands to ask or answer a question.
We have seen so many other students whose schools are open and in person. This makes us feel like we are not good enough to go back. Whether they are private schools, or schools that are just in a different district, it makes us and our schoolmates feel small. We have written this (letter) in the first place to give students a say in this matter, and to try to go back to school. When we see other schools back in person, it makes us feel as if we are being pushed out of the way, especially when your parents tell you that you are signed up to go back to school, and a few days later they tell you that it was cancelled yet again.
Online school can cause students and teachers to feel different emotions. We have asked some of our schoolmates this question. Here are their responses:
“It’s hard to focus when you are in online school,” Katherine Mooney said.
Gabrielle Collins said she thinks that it’s bad for us to be staring at a screen all day.
Evyn Vogeltanz added, “Online school makes me feel stressed because I have to buy the school resources that the school usually provides.”
Now that you have heard our reasons, we hope that you consider letting us go back to school.
Thank you for reading and thank you for your time.
Amelia Teeple and Ava Lambert
Atlanta Classical Academy sixth-graders