Q/A with virtual students returning to school

Dozens of Rider students recently stepped into the high school for the first time in 2020-21 as they made the transition from remote to face-to-face learning. 

The Rider Chronicle found and selected one from each grade to interview about their experience. Senior Mindy Lee, junior Misael Gutierez, sophomore Anibal Aranda and freshman Julia Tate discussed masks, new procedures and their reasons for coming to school this second six weeks. 

Q: How was your school-at-home experience?

Tate: It was really, like, boring. The teachers didn’t really help us. I’m caught up on my work now, but when I was at home I couldn’t really understand it. 

Aranda: It was pretty good. I liked the fact that I was able to spend more time at home. But it was a bit hard to learn and it wasn’t as easy to interact with other students.

Lee: I had a lot of free time, but I just really missed being with my friends and my teachers and being a part of all the activities. And most of the teachers tried to include us in things, but it still felt like it wasn’t normal and that I wasn’t a part of the class.

Gutierez: It was quiet. It was quiet because I didn’t really talk to anyone. I basically just sat and listened.

Q: What made you decide to come back to school this six weeks?

Tate: It’s better for me to learn here. 

Aranda: Like I said, it wasn’t easy to try and learn. So I decided that, if I had a better learning environment, I would be able to grasp the information that they gave me and learn better.

Lee: I always wanted to be here, but my parents wouldn’t let me because they thought it was unsafe. So, after lots of begging, I just really wanted to be here with my friends and my teachers. So they let me come back.

Gutierez: My peers, mostly. Because at home it was easier to concentrate and I didn’t really want that. I wanted to talk to people. I was getting lonely, depressed. I started doubting myself and I guess I just needed to interact with my peers. I just felt like I needed people around me.

Q: How were your first few days back at school?

Tate: It was good. I mean, the work was easier and I’m caught up on my work and everything. 

Aranda: They were actually really good. I was able to learn a lot more than I could online because of the interactions that I could get in class. I had a lot of fun being in class with the teachers and students. 

Lee: They’ve been really good. It’s definitely a lot more work and a lot more to do in my time because I don’t have all that free time at home. But I’m glad to be here and get to see everyone and be a part of things and be able to go to all the activities that go on during school.

Gutierez: Pretty good. They weren’t that hard, they were actually pretty easy. It was like a warm welcome, not too much work, not too little work. It was just right in between. The other students, they welcome me with open arms. And I just ran into their arms, you know? I’m just happy and glad to be back.

Q: Has the experience of coming back been what you expected?

Tate: Yes.

Aranda: I think so, yeah.

Lee: Yeah, it’s been pretty similar to what I thought it would be.

Gutierez: No, it’s basically all the same. Yeah, it’s basically all the same except for the masks. Besides that, it’s just high school. 

Q: How do you think having to wear a mask all day will affect you?

Tate: Honestly not really. I thought it’d be worse, but it’s really not. 

Aranda: Not really, the only problem I have is that it hurts my ears a lot. But besides that, it’s not too bad.

Lee: I thought that it’d be really bad. I was really scared that I wasn’t going to like it, but after the first few days, it wasn’t really bad at all. I’m so used to doing all of my dance practices and everything in masks, and it’s actually not that bad.

Gutierez:  The first two days it was actually kind of hard, but then I started to breathe slower and it started to work out better. I chew gum a lot, so every time I breathe it goes up to my eyes. 

Q: Have you enjoyed the social interactions that you’ve had since you got back?

Tate: I don’t really know. 

Aranda: Well, when I first started it was a bit slow. But as I got through the first week, I started talking to a lot more people and it was really nice. It was a lot better than not being able to talk to anyone.

Lee: I do. I really like getting to be a part of things and see my friends and just get to participate and talk in all my classes. 

Gutierez: I felt welcome. This is where I was born to be. I deserve to be here, surrounded by just wonderful people.