A Day Visit at a Private School “If You Live To the Left, You’re In. If You Live To the Right, You’re Out”

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A Day Visit at a Private School “If You Live To the Left, You’re In. If You Live To the Right, You’re Out”

Alexandra H. and Alexandra Hoethke

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A Day Visit at a Private School

“If You Live To the Left, You’re In. If You Live To the Right, You’re Out”


By Alexandra Hoethke, George Washington University Online High School Editor and Journalist, K12 International Academy News Editor

Mon March 4, 2019

(YAWP) – As a full-time online student, attending the George Washington University Online High School, I often felt the urge to go back and experience an average day at school. I transferred to an online school in the sixth grade, 2015, due to my figure skating competitive schedule. On Thursday, February 21st, 2019, I decided to shadow a student at a private school in Charlotte, North Carolina. This day was filled with eye-opening realizations that I had not noticed before. As children, we often do not judge people based on their financial status, color, or the schools they attend. However, as we get older, we tend to form opinions. I couldn’t help but think, I wish we could grow old seeing through the eyes of children when judging people. I also couldn’t help but feel that people treat you differently if you attend an online school, versus a brick and mortar school. When asked, I felt I needed a reason as to why I attend an online school.

As I was sitting in the parking lot, I looked up at the school. The bricks which aligned perfectly with one another outlined the prestigious attitude which resided within the student’s personal characteristics. As I walked through the doors, I was greeted by a friendly high school student who presented me with my schedule and specific events for the day. Within our society, there seems to be a stigma that is associated with online schools. That stigma inaccurately portrays that online schools hinder a student’s socialization abilities. As I sat in the lobby with the school’s student representative, I felt as if that stigma better-matched brick and mortar school students. I felt I was more vocal and able to communicate more easily in a new environment surrounded by new people.

From sitting at the lunch table to sitting in front of a history teacher, I realized how much the two systems of schooling, online and brick and mortar, are similar as well as different from one another. Although students learn similar material through both systems of schooling, the path students’ take to learn the material is quite different. While spending the full day at the school, I took note of many things such as the amount of time spent chatting during class, the time spent on breaks, class lectures, understanding what is being taught, as well as socialization among the students.

The school paired the visitors with students who were at their grade level. I was paired with a welcoming 10th-grade girl. My student companion introduced me to her friends and walked me to her first-period class, English. As I opened the door, the bright white tiled floor beamed from the over-head light reflection all the way up to the teacher’s desk. I was greeted by the teacher and introduced myself and the school I represented. I then proceeded to take a seat next to the student who was guiding me through her day. As an online student, I take school very seriously and am very focused on time management. Meaning, when I log into school, I’m ready to start my school day. While in school, I usually refrain from spending time discussing topics that are not related to school. While I was sitting in the class, however, I felt the time was being wasted. I watched the clock which was hanging on top of the long whiteboard. The class began at 8:00 am, however, the actual teaching of the lesson did not begin until 8:20 am. The first twenty minutes of the class was spent talking about an upcoming basketball game and taking verbal bids on when a late student would show up for class. The students, as well as the teacher, were engaged in this conversation. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time wasted on meaningless conversations when the students could have been learning the class course lesson. Although the students seemed to enjoy the conversation, I felt that if I were to join in on the humorous conversation during class time, not only would I have been unproductive, but also, I knew I would be disrespecting the teacher’s class time. Ultimately, my thoughts were, at the end of the day, the work the students missed during those twenty minutes, would be added to their homework, ultimately affecting their family or sports’ time.

After English class, I was taken to a chemistry class, which was then followed by an interview with the school’s admission’s counselor. I enjoyed attending an in-person chemistry class as I found the equipment to be fascinating. However, I did not feel I was at a disadvantage since my online school also provides me with the same equipment through materials that were shipped to my residence. When I came to the realization of how both types of schools provide similar equipment, I realized that both methods of school are the same; however, the only difference is the amount of in-person interaction and communication between students. I describe the interaction as in-person because online students interact with one another virtually every-day through Skype, one-on-one video chats through the classroom software, and in-person school trips. I realize that not every student would be comfortable or even be willing to develop friendships this way.

Subsequent to the chemistry class, I was taken to the school’s administrative director for an interview. I felt calm and prepared as I was asked questions regarding my personal, educational, sports, and family life. When asked where I attended school, I immediately saw the hesitation within the director’s voice, almost as if the questions now had to be reconsidered since I was an online student. I felt the stigma that society believes, that is, that online school students have a social disadvantage. However, after my interview, I felt as if the director had a different perspective towards online students, as she let me know how impressed she was with my interview and communication skills. I felt proud to break the stigma.

After my interview, the students were given a free period to do whatever they chose. Several students quickly went to the library, possibly to complete some last-minute homework or studying. The majority of the students spent their time talking in the lunchroom. The student I was paired with decided to go to the lunchroom. The seemingly hundreds of voices echoed through every sound wave in the lunchroom. I felt as if it were impossible to hear anyone speak a clear sentence.

As I was surrounded by the students at the lunch table, I was asked where I go to school, what sports I play, and if I have any siblings. I responded the best I could, given the loudness within the room. After fifteen minutes passed, I heard a conversation amongst the girls at the lunchroom table I was sitting at. They were talking about where students live, and the conversation turned to, “if you turn left out of the school, then you are accepted and if you turn right out of the school, then you are not accepted”. The left side of the school leads travelers to the upper-class areas of Charlotte, while the right side leads travelers to the middle and lower class areas of Charlotte. In my opinion, both sides of Charlotte provide unique cultural and living conditions. After some time passed, and the girls knew some information about me, I was asked a specific question. A question that is irrelevant to me, however immensely relevant to the students at the school.

The girls asked me,


“When you exit the school, do you turn right or do you turn left at the traffic light?”


The moment I heard this question, I felt a sudden flashback to when I was in the 6th grade, surrounded by gossiping young students. I looked up and saw all the girls intensely waiting for my response. Would they accept me? Even after I was kind to them, if I lived to the right side of the school, would they not welcome me? These were the questions that ran through my mind. Suddenly, as I realized how immature and discriminatory the question was, I responded, “I live to the right of the school, and I think it’s a nice part of town just like the left side.” A couple of the girls who were sitting next to me were not sure what to say, while I sadly heard another student tell me, “It’s okay, I live to the right, but I am moving to the left side of town soon.” A couple of students at the table felt the same way I did, as they tried to shed light on the uncomfortable conversation that was taking place. However, those who lived on the “wrong” side of the road were a bit out-numbered, which I immediately thought could lead to peer pressure. I could not help but think that online school does not have these inequalities, as we come from all different streets, states, and countries.

After this occurrence, I realized schools and teachers, in general, need to have more communication and discussion regarding how we are all equal regardless of where we live or how much we have. This way of thinking can only lead to more negative consequences in the future.

My student companion continued to guide me through her school day. I very much appreciated her kindness. She took me to her history class. The walk to each class was enjoyable, as I found the ability to travel around campus to be a positive aspect of attending an in-person school, as I got to exercise and move around. The history class was filled with historic posters, and the ceiling was lined with a printed timeline that displayed historical events from the beginning of time to the present day. It was nice to be inside of a classroom again. The teacher’s lesson was based on a document that was sent to the students through their iPads. As I was in the history class, I was able to follow the teacher’s lesson as he was presenting his lecture to the students. As the teacher was speaking, I noticed something that caught my attention in a negative way. I looked over to my left and I observed a group of students talking while the teacher was presenting the lecture. I felt uncomfortable being in the presence of such disrespect. While I expect this type of behavior in middle school, I was a little taken back when I noticed it was still occurring in high school. As I was listening to the lesson, I noticed several students playing a game on their iPads. I also noticed some students drawing immature figures on the document.

I feel as though, teachers deserve the utmost respect as they provide students with the ability to enhance their futures. I also feel teachers need to correct students when they are not given this respect. It was not until the last few minutes of class that the teacher confronted the students with his disapproval of their actions. As I think back on this occurrence, I wonder why it took the teacher so long to interject such disrespectful behavior, maybe it was just the school’s teaching method.

Prior to this visit, I was trying to reevaluate whether continuing with an online school was hindering me and whether attending a brick and mortar school would help me further socialize and become a well-rounded individual. While no one can ever be one-hundred percent sure of a decision, I feel confident that my decision to continue attending my school, the George Washington University Online High School, will provide me with essential tools to be successful.

This experience did help me in the sense that I am no longer second-guessing whether a brick and mortar school has so many more advantages. I now know that there are pros and cons to both schooling methods, and it depends on the parent’s view, one’s personality, level of motivation, confidence, and personal dedication to determine what schooling method best fits a student. Although there are vast similarities and differences to both methods of schooling, both provide students with a platform for learning.

In the end, I realize we, as a young generation, have an obligation to appreciate our differences and understand that we are all equal regardless of our personalities and the peer pressures we may face. I wish every young adult could appreciate similarities and differences. I believe this is the way to become a better America.

Does attending an online school enhance the positive perspectives of young people rather than hinder their future? I would say so.