Christy McDonald catches up with PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs students Isaac, Mackenzie, and Emily about how school has changed when it comes to learning virtually and interactions with friends and teachers.


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Interviewer Listen on what things have been like for you for the past seven weeks, and you are all virtual.

Emily Birnbaum, Royal Oak HS Reading this program called Canvas.

Emily Birnbaum, Royal Oak HS So that’s how the teacher student communication has been has been going. No one turns on their cameras in my classes either. Like, there is a couple where I don’t think I’ve heard anyone speak like in the entire time that we’ve been in school so far. It’s just it’s really weird.

Interviewer Isaac, fill us in on what’s happening at Cass Tech. You’re a sophomore and you guys are all virtual as well.

Isaac Sanders, Cass Tech HS It’s been difficult because, in my geometry class, we have to- we get into these groups and my group doesn’t talk at all. And I know I need help with geometry because usually in math, it’s been a struggle for me, all the other classes, too. But with some of my classes, we’re being we’re being more we’re talking more in each class by the day. So, that’s good. 

Interviewer So but it’s taking a while. I mean, if we’ve been back in school for seven weeks and it’s just kind of getting to the point where students, you guys are feeling more comfortable communicating as we’re communicating in the breakout rooms.

Mackenzie Bisdorf, Fraser HS Well, for example, when we need help with something in like one of the zoom meetings. Everybody has to listen to your question being asked and everybody has to listen to the teacher. Going through that with that student. And so it’s like when we’re supposed to be off doing our own thing, and we hear those questions being answered, it’s kind of it’s a little bit distracting. And when we’re in school, we can privately go up to the teacher, get our questions asked. Like, you know, I’m not interrupting the whole class. And I just feel kind of like a burden to the class when I ask questions. 

Interviewer Yeah. So do you think, Emily, that it might stop people from actually asking a question, saying, well, I’ll just figure out on my own or I’m hesitant to even look like the dumb person who was weight raising their hand? Who needs who needs the help?

Emily Birnbaum, Royal Oak HS Absolutely. I mean, I do that like I kind of feel the pressure to, like, not ask anything and just kind of figure it out on my own.

Interviewer Hey, Isaac, when you guys get off of Zoom and you finish your school day, what are you and your friends talking about? What are the biggest problems? Do you think that the students that you guys are encountering, that maybe no one’s listening to

Isaac Sanders, Cass Tech HS We’re on screens for eight hours a day then 50, then 55 minutes for each class. And that’s that’s that’s well, that’s what we usually talk about, because class time is way too long for us. And it’s hard to focus all the 55 minutes. I think I think our schedule needs to be changed because I don’t think I can focus the whole year.

Interviewer [00:02:33] I mean, I can’t be on a work zoom meeting longer than forty five minutes before my mind starts to wander. So I can’t imagine that repetitive like you’ve ended one class and then you just gotta get right back on.

Interviewer Mackenzie, what are your friends telling you?

Mackenzie Bisdorf, Fraser HS Actually saying a lot of the same things that Isaac’s friends are saying which is that each class it just seems too long.

Interviewer Emily, is it the same thing with you and your friends?

Emily Birnbaum, Royal Oak HS It’s pretty similar. The only difference is that, like, our classes are kind of like sectioned in half. So like we have half the class is a live meeting, and then half the class, is like working on your own. But it’s still it’s still grueling.

Interviewer All right. Now, you guys are the student reporters for the PBS News Hour student reporting lab. What are some of the stories that you’d like to tell that you don’t think are out there?

Isaac Sanders, Cass Tech HS First, imma go with sports, because I’m on Cass basketball team right now. And something else is, is to Black Lives Matter movement because because because of my race and I want to support.

Interviewer Emily what about you? What are some of the stories that you’re interested in telling?

Emily Birnbaum, Royal Oak HS How like the teachers are becoming a lot more casual between student communication? And I think that’s actually a good thing because, like, you don’t feel like your teachers, it’s this like super or like high superior being that you feel like you can’t, like, talk to. So I think just like the online communication is really helping with that.