Essay on Virtual School during the COVID-19 Outbreak by my Fifth Grader

Below is an opinion essay written by 10-yr-old Hannah. Maybe this is interesting to see how a fifth grader sees this outbreak?

Is Virtual School a Good Replacement for Traditional School – by Hannah Newman

Did you know that over thirty percent of college students are attending some part of their schooling using virtual technology.  Also, in K-12 education, the fastest growing segment is online virtual classes.  During the COVID-19 outbreak when our “Traditional Schools” were closed, we were all forced to experiment with virtual schools and now we students are able to provide input on how the two approaches compare.  This can be very important to learn how to improve in the future, because most likely, there will always be a virtual part of education  in the future.  From my experience, traditional school that is held on the school campus along with one’s friends is a better way to learn than virtual school using technology from home.  This is because students learn better when physically together with their fellow students, the personal connection to a teacher is important, and distractions are everywhere when doing virtual school.

First, from observation during my time in elementary school, students learn better when learning with their classmates.  A funny quote from a famous psychologist from the early 1900’s named G. Stanley Hall goes as follows, “prolonged solitude tends toward imbecility, especially in the young” (Lesko).  Solitude is something that is definitely experienced at times during virtual school.  When parents are working or are distracted with other siblings’ education, some students spend much of their time working alone.  The solitude feels nice sometimes, but of course there are some downsides.  Loneliness sets in after a while and the student might try to fix this by doing Zoom chats with their friends instead of doing their school work.  An article on the Department of Education website written by a professor at the University of Waikato named Gary Faloon confirms this and states that “Research indicates learners studying at a distance can experience perceptions of isolation and lack of ‘belonging’ and support, which can adversely affect their learning experience and performance.” (Faloon, 128). In addition to the loneliness, virtual school can also miss the fun, surprising turns that a live class with classmates can have.  An article on virtual schooling from the website confirms this by saying “Any teacher who has taught in a real life classroom setting knows that students can change the way a day’s lesson goes. A student can ask a question related to the subject matter that creates the need to pause for a moment and explore an entirely different topic.” (Johnson) This kind of interaction doesn’t really happen in virtual school.

Second, some students don’t learn as well when the teacher is not physically present.  For example, a student like me who has lots of questions finds it hard to get quick responses during virtual school.  The teacher may be distracted by interaction with individuals in the class through technology.  It seems like sometimes teachers have a harder time talking with the whole class at one time than they do talking with individual students.  Due to the technology, it’s harder in Zoom calls, for instance, to ask questions or get individual help than it is in person.  Sometimes the students have to mute their microphones and it’s hard to know when it’s OK to ask questions.  This might be solvable, according to an article in, which states “While some elements of in-person instruction translate well to a virtual classroom, others need some adjustment. ‘A lot of what they [instructors] know about really great in-person facilitation applies online,’ said Cindy Huggett, a virtual training consultant. But some skills need to be tweaked or expanded. ‘It’s like, you already know how to drive a car; now you’re learning to drive a truck. It’s the same set of skills, but you add on to it.’ “ (Hogle). This says that teachers should be able to learn how to apply their person to person skills differently online.  The same article continues, “The instructor might need to plan, script—and practice—each session to a greater extent than she/he does for in-person teaching.”  (Hogle). The teachers are still learning these new techniques and eventually students might learn to connect better with their teachers in the virtual environments. 

Lastly, there are many distractions at home that don’t exist in the physical school room.  There are both external and internal distractions that I have had to learn to work through. For example, being on the computer for three or four hours straight is a new experience for students.  This creates lots of distractions because the student feels free on the computer without much oversight.  At school, time on the computer is limited and focused on a specific activity.  It is not possible to play a game or watch a YouTube video on the computer without a teacher knowing when physically at school.  When at home, however, parents sometimes miss catching these distractions.  Additionally, there are challenges with noises from other siblings’ schooling or parents’ work activities.  Add to these challenges the fact that being at home with one’s siblings all day long can be very annoying.  This shows that the learning environment is very important.  An article from the New York Times on remote learning states, “The environment makes the classroom, which is why virtual teaching will never fully replace classroom teaching.“ (Gonchar).  The external distractions are shown above, but one other challenge comes from inside the student and this is in the area of motivation.  When the environment is less structured like in the virtual classroom, a student is more free to avoid work that seems less fun and do easier, more fun activities.  This has been quite a challenge, but this might be a way for a student to learn skills for being responsible for choices that they may not learn in more structured environments.  Overall, though, right now the bad parts of virtual schooling are more obvious than any potential good parts.

Given these points, it seems clear that traditional school room learning is better for students than virtual school.  This is because people need other people and this helps the learning process, teachers are trained for in-person interaction and haven’t learned techniques to use virtual technology better, and the virtual classroom environment is distracting.  Teachers are doing their best in a hard situation to learn new approaches quickly and are motivated to help students.  It is important, however, for the country to apply the lessons of the COVID-19 outbreak to learn better ways to do virtual school in case it is necessary again in the future.

Works Cited

Faloon, Garry.  “Inside the Virtual Classroom: Student Perspectives on Affordances and Limitations”.  Journal of Open, Flexible, and Distance Learning.

Gonchar, Michael, and Shannon Doyne. “Has Your School Switched to Remote Learning? How Is It Going So Far?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Mar. 2020,

Hogle, Pamela. “Three Key Differences Between In-Person and Virtual Teaching.” Learning Solutions Magazine,

Johnson, Amanda.,, Nancy.  “G. Stanley Hall (1844–1924).”,

6 Replies to “Essay on Virtual School during the COVID-19 Outbreak by my Fifth Grader”

  1. What a well-written thoughtful essay, Hannah. As a teacher, and a mom, I would have to agree with you! I’m looking forward to the day I can be in the classroom with my students again. So glad I stopped to read this! Well said!

  2. Hannah, I liked what you wrote about G. Stanley Hall. His saying that prolonged solitude leads to imbecility, I am fast approaching that point!

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