Reflections on Virtual Summer School

by Vivien Zhang ’21

Hello Readers! This summer I have busied myself with the fast-paced and arduous four-week course that is Grade 12 Advanced Functions taught by Mr. Moorlag, Mr. Sherman and Mr. Simmonds. Under the circumstances of the seemingly interminable Covid-19 crisis, the school has opted in for another month of remote learning. Upon this news, I had a simultaneous sigh of relief that was accompanied by frustration – relieved for a wise decision made and frustrated for the robbing of an authentic, in-class environment. Nonetheless, the Grade 10/11 students were invited to a proficiently designed Google site by the end of June and divided into their respective classes, thus marking the impermanent close to our Summer Break. 

Each morning commenced with a mandatory Google Meet at 8:45 that assembled the class to introduce the content. Occasionally, a brief overview or a mini-lesson would be taught to reinforce the concepts learned. Questions would be answered, greetings would be exchanged and then we would be released to attempt the assigned video lesson and classwork individually. The strenuous effects of virtual learning were intensified by this repetitive cycle. It required a substantial amount of focus and motivation balanced with a healthy lifestyle. I have discovered that studying in groups by Facetime or Google Meet lessens the insipidity of isolation through interdependence. Receiving sporadic Facetime requests from friends acts as a reminder that I am not truly alone. 

Since the curriculum for the year was compressed to be completed in one month, assessments were occurring every other day. There were a variety of testing forms including Google Classroom timed unit assignments, Edpuzzle multiple choice questions and video submissions. I appreciated the mix of opportunities to excel in this course. They would be marked and returned with detailed comments and explanations. For the two-part exam, we were instructed to complete a multiple choice Google form and a written portion consisting of cleverly personalized long answer questions. The assessment ran smoothly, as the students have practiced through a mock test that is modeled in construction. 

I relished in the freedoms I had – being able to listen to music, pause and step away to snack or refill my tea. On the other hand, with distractions lurking at every corner and without anyone to reign me back on track, it is easy to become too comfortable. Academic performance is very much based on self-regulation. I find it beneficial to get out of bed, shower, make myself breakfast and then proceed with the daily schedule. It mimics my usual routine and disallows me to fall into a pattern of laziness. I take pleasure in the small things such as deliberating over a fresh outfit for the day, or if I would prefer strawberry jam over cranberry on my toast. Simple delights. 

I am grateful for the level of involvement and understanding by the teachers. All would be available for extra-help throughout the day. In this aspect, there was no distinction between remote and in-class learning. Mr. Simmonds would patiently assist in helping me comprehend through multiple different approaches (graphing, solving algebraically, etc.). The help was not only math related but mentally as well. The schedule was constantly modified to provide us with hours when we would be able to work outside, unaccompanied by technology. Not to mention, my spirits were uplifted each time I received a light-hearted message from the class chat. From to-do lists to words of encouragement, all were brimming with enthusiasm. For all the reasons stated above, I would like to sincerely thank Mr. Moorlag, Mr. Sherman, and Mr. Simmonds for the truly unique experience I had in the Advanced Functions Summer Course.