From Zoom to Campus, Students Noticing New Academic Challenges


Photo courtesy of Alexis Weiss

Alexis Weiss, Reporter

This past year of online school with one-semester long courses, flexible deadlines, and the ability to cheat, has left students unprepared and struggling to pass classes this year back on campus.  Some teachers are also finding that students are behind in topics they should already have mastered. 

Last year, Novato High implemented a 4×4 schedule, which turned year-long classes into semester-long classes. This means​ the concepts that students learned the first semester haven’t been reviewed in months.

“I don’t remember anything from English or History because I took them my first semester,” NHS junior Clark Schutz said. 

Junior Molly Wiens agreed. 

“Going into Spanish-4 a year after taking Spanish 3 online has been difficult as we missed out on so much of the communication component of the class last year,” Wiens said.

Another reason students are falling behind is because of the accelerated pace of the class, which prevented all the material from being covered. Students are now finding there were holes in the curriculum. 

“The at-home environment of last year was so much easier… [Now] everyone is so under-prepared,” junior Zane Marchi said. “It feels like we are doing catch-up work in class.” 

Many students agreed. 

“I think with online school, we all got used to having two classes a day and teachers weren’t expecting as much out of us, given the circumstances,” Wiens said.

And while the schedule impacted student learning, Zooming into every class also made it challenging to understand what was going on. Many students found it easy to tune out what was happening on their screen and find other distractions while at home. 

When asked if they felt like online school prepared them for this year, almost every student interviewed said “no.” 

“Online school 100% didn’t prepare me for junior year,” Novato High School junior Taylor Wong explained. “I respect how lenient teachers were last year, given the circumstances, but with the new year, I feel very overwhelmed with my classes… [teachers] did their best teaching the full curriculum in a semester, but the workload has been substantially harder and larger than last year.”

Teachers feel the same way after seeing kids walk into their classes unable to perform tasks they should have mastered last year. 

Novato High School math teacher David Blair shared his opinion. 

“In my pre-calculus class, we talk about circles, and circles were one of the things that we had to cut out of geometry last year,” said Blair. “So I don’t blame the students.” 

He went on to describe why he thinks students are falling behind. 

“I think human nature kicks in at some point when it’s just too easy to get answers from friends and look answers up online. I think we all probably would have done it if we had been in the same space and I don’t know if there was any way to stop that,” he said. “And first off, when they made classes double periods, they weren’t really double. Double periods would have been 100 minutes, and they were 90. Second of all, it’s online, and third, sitting and learning for anybody at any age for 90 minutes is not an easy task.”

So are students underprepared for this year or did they get into habits that were so different from in-person school, that they just need to retrain those learning muscles now that they’re back? 

The answer is both. 

From material being cut out of the curriculum to students finding easier ways around assignments to shorter class times and it all being online, students are struggling to find their way again throughout this recent transition back to campus.