By Meghan Walsh
Brendan Walsh awakens at 9 a.m. to the sound of his father persistently pounding on his bedroom door. He has always had a difficult time getting up in the morning but now it is even more challenging, as there is no actual place for him to be.
He isn’t due to his homeroom class at 8 a.m. anymore but, instead, to his Google Chrome laptop at 10 a.m.
Brendan Walsh is a sophomore at Trinity High School in Garfield Heights which is now hosting its classes via Zoom video chats.
Reluctantly trudging down the wooden staircase at a snail-like pace, Brendan Walsh makes his way to the dark pantry, grabs a box of Fruity Pebbles, pours himself a bowl of cereal and eats his breakfast groggily.
By 10 a.m., he is comfortably situated at the wooden dining room table with his earphones on his head and his class before his eyes, hoping it won’t take too long.
“Online school, so far, is very different,” said Brendan Walsh, 16, of Parma. “We learn much less over the quarantine than we do at school. My grades have been impacted in a negative way. To get this stuff done on time is hard to do and that’s the reason for my grades dropping a bit.”
Brendan Walsh is one of many students across Ohio who has had to make the sudden transition to online learning as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
It is estimated that 1.5 billion children across the globe are affected by school closures due to the coronavirus and a vast majority of them are now attending school online.
Katie Gagne, an English teacher at Trinity High School, is struggling as well to bring her students the material they need and to make sure it is educational and beneficial to them, rather than just giving them busy work to pass the time.
“We [the teachers] struggled a lot in the first few weeks when we weren’t communicating [with the students], before we got the technology figured out,” said Gagne, 50, of Westlake.
But what Gagne misses most are the in-person interactions and connections she has with her students. That has been the hardest part for her.
“You want to spend your day with the kids,” Gagne said.
“That’s why I became a teacher. I don’t want to sit in front of a computer screen.” Gagne also worries about the students who have difficult home lives.
“I have a freshman student who doesn’t live in the best neighborhood and whose only socialization takes place at school,” Gagne said. “He told me, ‘If I’m not doing anything at school, there’s nothing. It’s lonely.’ I worry about kids like him.”
Still, Gagne braves the storm and logs on to her third period senior class to discuss their latest reading assignment, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley.
One of Gagne’s senior students, Katharine Walsh, is not struggling academically, but rather with missing out on her senior year and not being able to see her friends.
“It isn’t as tedious,” said Katharine Walsh, 18, of Parma, Ohio. “Everyone is a lot less talkative. I am a very social person and not being about to talk with my friends and teachers is affecting me.”
As a senior, her greatest struggle is missing out on the final months of high school with her friends and the fear that there will be no prom or graduation ceremony.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Katharine Walsh, “and that makes me sad.”
As for Brendan Walsh, his structure continues to improve each day. With the help of his parents and teachers, he is gradually adapting to this new reality. His teachers have been very understanding and accommodating, as they too are in a period of transition.
“I don’t really like it,” Brendan Walsh said. “It’s hard to focus but I’m doing my best. Hopefully I’ll be back in actual school next fall.”
(Meghan Walsh attends Cleveland State University)