Risk vs. Reward

an at-home learner’s take on in-person school


Photo courtesy of Ava Markhovsky

Senior Ava Markhovsky shares her take on the return to campus in January.

Ava Markhovsky

Let me start with my little circumstantial spiel: I have an immunocompromised family member.

This means that my family has to take social distancing extremely seriously, so much so that I haven’t been in any building other than my own house since March.

So, knowing that, I obviously haven’t attended in-person school this year, gone to any sporting events or even hung out with my friends indoors. And I don’t plan to for some time. What follows is coming from the perspective of not only an at-home learner, but an at-home human.

I think the educational experience of at-home learners will suffer greatly when we stop using the hybrid model. While I believe Greenhill is doing the best it can, being online is still extremely difficult and othering.

Switching to an Upper School model where everyone is in person all the time, other than a few kids, will almost definitely mean that it will be harder for teachers to pay attention to at-home students. Already, there are many classes in which we have to yell for assistance. While I don’t exactly have a problem with making my opinions heard, not every student is like that. In fact, most are not.

Additionally, being one of seven students on a screen in front of the whole class is already hard enough. Imagine being one of two. Beyond those selfish reasons however, pushing the boundaries of what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests sends the wrong message. We are literally in one of the most highly infected regions in the country, and cases are rising exponentially. This not only puts my friends in danger, but my teachers, who have no choice in the matter.

I have spent months watching my classmates stand right next to each other on Teams and on social media. As a faculty kid, many of these teachers aren’t just people I see for an hour every few days, they are my Dallas family. I know their spouses, their kids, their parents; the people we are potentially putting in harm’s way, especially by switching out of hybrid.

By doing this, we as an institution are not conveying the importance and seriousness of this pandemic, resulting in students feeling that they can be more lax about safety measures, both on and off campus. I know other private schools in town are already using the model we are planning to switch to, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow suit. Just because all of your friends are jumping off a bridge, doesn’t mean you should too.

I know learning from home can be extremely difficult. It is a challenge for people who don’t struggle with attention or learning difficulties, so I can’t even imagine what it is like for those students, and that is a conversation we definitely need to have. We need to give extra support to those students.

That being said, I am still not convinced that switching out of hybrid is worth risking the wellbeing of members of our community. I honestly think we owe it to our teachers and at-home kids, who have already sacrificed plenty, to not make this switch until we have a truly effective solution to this pandemic.

If we wish to embody our mission of instilling respect for others, we need to show our students what that looks like. Leadership, compassion, equity and respect are not taught through words, but through actions.