This time last March, students, teachers and parents were diving into something completely new: Every city public school class moving online.
“One year later, just still doing remote learning, which I never thought I would be doing in the first place,” said Nicolas Brandao, an eighth grader at M.S. 839 in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.
While much of the focus in the last year has been on reopening classrooms, about 70% of the city's public school students haven’t set foot in one since last winter. That includes Nicolas. Due to family health concerns, including his own asthma, he's stayed home. Unlike many of his peers, he says remote learning has been a success for him.
“It's challenging, but also better for me, I feel, because it makes me pay attention to my work more instead of being distracted by other kids like I usually was when I was in the building,” he said.
Not every remote student has had that experience — and nobody knows that better than Nicolas’s mom, Nadia Taylor, who teaches elementary school computer science from her kitchen. She says some students just need the classroom.
“They want to be there, they want to be social, they want to be around their teachers, they want to learn. And even though they're still able to do that remotely, it's just not the same,” she said.
She spent the first half of the school year working in-person, and with her computer science background, the first few weeks of this academic year were devoted to troubleshooting iPads given to students.
“We had lines around the block of parents, bringing the devices saying this is not working,” she said.
She's seen first hand how much harder this is for families who don’t have access to the same technology she does.
“There were people on cell phones, learning, learning on a cell phone, and that was hurting me, like that was physically, I felt it,” she said.
Even with Nicolas doing well, three people working from a New York apartment at the same time can get tough. While he was in class, his mom was having online meetings with parents about report cards.
Luckily, stepdad Ricardo Taylor, a fitness trainer, doesn’t start the noisiest part of his day until a little later.
"I’m jumping and kicking and punching or making loud sounds. So it definitely gets a little crazier as the day goes on,” he said.
Around that time, Nicolas, who hopes to attend LaGuardia, the high school for the performing arts, practices his singing.
Auditions this year have also gone virtual, and that, too, has its upside.
“You only have one chance in person. And when you record you have many takes,” he said.