A Q&A with my Two Daughters: Checking in On Online School

Interviews with an 11th and an 8th grader about online school.

My daughters attend Iowa City schools.

We chose online school for at least the first trimester. 

Samantha is in eleventh grade at West High, and Piper is in eighth grade at Northwest Junior High. Or they would be, if they were attending class in person. Because of this year’s strangeness, they both have teachers from other junior highs or high schools. I interviewed them about their experience so far.

teenage girl at desk with computer
Samantha, 11th grade

Sharon (Mom): You’ve been attending online school for a few weeks now. How is it going?

Samantha (eleventh grade): Fine. 

Sharon: Describe a typical school day.

Samantha: For synchronous time, we go to a Zoom meeting with our teachers. We either have three or four meetings, depending on if it’s afternoon or morning synchronous time. The teachers usually do Pear Decks, which are a slide presentation that you can interact with and answer questions. We do that to review, sometimes teachers will do lectures, other teachers have per-recorded video lectures for asynchronous days. 

Note: Monday and Wednesday classes for high school meet from 8:50 a.m. to 12:22 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday classes meet 12:54 p.m. to 4 p.m.. Monday and Wednesday afternoons are asynchronous learning, as are Tuesday and Thursday mornings. On Fridays, the students have check-ins in each class; teachers can choose how long to keep the students — a few minutes, or the full class time. The teachers will review what was done this week and what needs to be done next week.

Sharon: Have you had any challenges?

Samantha: Something that I worked on for an hour disappeared. We were doing annotations on Canvas, and I resubmitted it because that’s what the teacher told us to do, but it caused it all to disappear. 

Sharon: Tell me more about Canvas.

Samantha: It’s a website that teachers can put classes on, and they can put assignments and announcements on it. 

application showing high school classes
Canvas screenshot

Sharon: Is there anything you like better about online school than regular school?

Samantha: I don’t have as much homework because I can use asynchronous time to work on it.

Sharon: Do you have your camera on?

Samantha: Not usually, no.

Sharon: What do you miss about a regular school year?

Samantha: Eating lunch with my friends, just seeing people in person.

Sharon (Mom): You’ve been attending online school for a few weeks now. How is it going?

teenage girl at desk with computer
Piper, 8th grade

Piper (eighth grade): Fine.

Sharon: Have you had any challenges?

Piper: Zoom kicked me out of class twice. I had to email the teacher and text a friend to ask what the assignment was. 

Sharon: Describe a typical school day.

Piper: I wake up at 7:30 a.m., get dressed, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, check my email . . .

Sharon: What are you checking for?

Piper: Emails from my teacher. And then I do . . . stuff . . . until 8:45 a.m., and then I log onto Zoom and I go to homeroom. I totally don’t just text my friends during homeroom.

Sharon: Do you have your camera on?

Piper: Not usually.

Sharon: Does anybody?

Piper: Some people. Less and less every day, though.

Sharon: Is there anything about online school that you like better than regular school?

Piper: I get to have pasta every day for lunch, and I get to choose if I play the snare drum or the bells (for band).

Sharon: How does band work online?

Piper: On Mondays on Wednesdays we watch videos of bands, and on Fridays we play, but we’re muted. The teachers play a band through their computer and we play along with it.

Sharon: What do you miss about a regular school year?

Piper: Being able to actually see your friends. And having class with them and being able to see them before the bell rings.

Sharon: Do you think you’ll want to go back at the trimester?

Piper: Depends on what it’s like at the trimester. Also, I have a lot of different teachers so if I go back, I’ll have to have different teachers. And I’ll have to do P.E. That’s another thing I like better about online school.

Sharon: Tell me about P.E.

Piper: We only meet on Tuesdays, because it’s an AB class. We have to do two exercises a week for 15 or more minutes and put them in a log.

Note: Some classes in junior high only meet on “A” or “B” days. That’s what she means by P.E. is an AB class. On the opposite days, she has a study hall.

Sharon: Are you finding ways to connect with your friends?

Piper: I play Minecraft with a friend on a server, and we have group calls on Google Hangout.

Samantha: Over the summer we played games over Discord, but we’re not doing that now.

Piper: We’re going to have some kind of Halloween thing, maybe. 

Sharon: Like what?

Piper: Just a Hangout call, but Halloween themed. We could do some Kahoots. There’s a really good candy one. And eat candy.

Kahoots are brief quizlets that can be done online. Teachers might use them in class, or kids can make up their own.

Sharon: Hopes for next year?

Piper: I hope to be back in school, sure.

Samantha: My hope is that the country is still intact. But yeah, going back to school in person and seeing my friends and not having to wear masks would be nice.


Sharon Falduto is a Central Iowa native who came to University of Iowa in 1991 and essentially never left the area. She is involved in local community theater, notably as one of the co-founders of Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre. She has also directed children's plays with the Young Footliters group. Sharon works in with English Language Learners in a support position at Kirkwood Community College.. She lives in Coralville with her husband, Matt, and three daughters Rachel, Samantha, and Piper.


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