Straight From the Source: Sophomore at Hersey High School explains the difficulties associated with doing high school by computer

  • Photo courtesy of Emily DattiloElyse Dattilo, 15, a sophomore at Hersey High School, in her home classroom. Photo credit: Emily Dattilo

    Photo courtesy of Emily DattiloElyse Dattilo, 15, a sophomore at Hersey High School, in her home classroom. Photo credit: Emily Dattilo

By Elyse Dattilo
Straight From The Source
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 9/15/2020 2:12 PM

My morning routine during freshman year was pretty simple. Get out of bed, brush my teeth and do my makeup. You probably wouldn't believe I could get up 15 minutes before I had to leave and accomplish all of this.

My morning routine during sophomore year has been quite different. I wake up later in the day and watch TikTok before eventually making it back upstairs to start an online course. My commute isn't that long; it's about 5 feet from my bed to my desk.


The structure of a school day isn't there anymore. Most kids can get up five minutes before class begins and can spend the whole day on their phone or playing video games.

I agree that all students should be paying attention and getting an education whether we're in person or not. However, in this case, I cannot blame students who do not give 100% effort in school. It is incredibly hard to stare at an iPad for five hours without any social interaction, not to mention spending at least two more hours a day doing homework which, most times, is on an electronic device.

Socializing is so important for high school students, not just to help us develop social skills, but also to help boost our mental health. Not being able to talk to my classmates and friends during school puts a big damper on my happiness.

There are a million suggestions one could give regarding what we as students could do to keep our mental health from suffering. These include writing in a journal, taking care of your body, joining a club or seeing a friend for dinner.

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None of these ideas, however, help with spending six out of seven days in front of a screen with no one to talk to.

School is meant to be a place where students can get an education -- not just in the core classes, but in social skills, physical exercise and specialty classes. School is a place that we as students can look forward to going to.

It's an excuse to dress up once in a while or bring a special lunch to share with friends. It was never intended to be the stressful experience it is today.

Today, we must be attentive during all of class to ensure we hear every word the teachers say. We do this to ensure we don't have any questions or need help.

It is, of course, possible to email or Zoom with teachers for help or to ask questions, but it's not the same.

Emails will get lost in the shuffle and might not be answered in time for the exam. Sometimes, help will be given for a question that was never asked.


When students were allowed to learn in-person, if you had a question you could do one of two things: raise your hand during class and get your answer right there on the spot, or you could stay after class and ask the teacher privately.

In today's situation, to ask a question you could raise your hand. But getting the teacher to take notice of your hand can take up to five minutes. If the teacher doesn't notice your hand, you can wait for a break in the lecture and unmute yourself and try to speak.

Hopefully, no one will talk over you because of the lag, and hopefully your voice will be clear enough for the teacher to hear.

I understand that teachers in all schools are trying their best to make remote instruction as easy as possible. The teachers are not the problem; the online environment is.

In the past three weeks of online learning, I have heard quite a few memorable things from my friends, but one in particular is worth sharing.

My best friend said something to me when we were on a FaceTime call during a break from "school."

"Some days I just want to go home," she said. "But I can't because I am home."

It's quite a commentary on our times.

I think I speak for most of the high school student community when I say that we need the schools to reopen. We need them to open, not only so that we can get an education but also so we can stay mentally and physically healthy.

There are ways to take necessary safety precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus when going back to school. These precautions do not include shutting the schools down with no end date in sight.

And so I say to all the high schools in the area: Please come up with a plan to get us back in school as soon as possible.

The new normal doesn't work for us.

• Elyse Dattilo, 15, is a sophomore at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. She aspires to manage a fashion house one day or to write for a fashion magazine such as "Vogue."

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