The Newest Change to Online Learning: WIN Wednesdays

As we enter our eleventh month of quarantine and school has continued to be online, a back and forth battle between how to make sure students are getting the support they need during these unique times while also making sure educational requirements are met, has maintained. Over the months, students have asked, fought, and pleaded for support and answers while trying to navigate online school and not knowing when PPS will return to in-person. Finally, after much struggle, Allderdice has made a change in hopes students will feel a little better about the lousy situation they’ve been put in. 

WIN or “What I Need” Wednesdays are the newest structural change to the way online school is being handled. Students are given every Wednesday free of structured classes to take time and use it to do whatever it is they may need. Whether that includes sleeping in a little later or getting time to catch up on work, talk with a teacher, or schedule a time to have a club meeting, this new free day is the time to do it. Allderdice implemented this at the beginning of second semester. With the massive increase in failing grades coming with this pandemic and the overwhelming feeling of Zoom fatigue, something had to be done. You still have to ask the question though: why did it take this long? Schools such as CAPA have had their own version of WIN Wednesdays since late fall and other schools around Pittsburgh and the country have found ways to help students succeed in the pandemic. Of all the schools in the country, only 12% have failed to go back to in-person at least once over the pandemic. 

Even though this change was a long time coming many people within Allderdice are happy about the switch. Ms. McClelland, one of the chemistry teachers, states, “I think it’s a great opportunity for students, before Allderdice I taught at Montour and we had an intervention period during the day, it was a great time to go to teachers or hold club meetings. I think this will be good for students. I was also able to hold a meeting for my club [Students Against Destructive Decisions] and it’s a good time to do it because at the end of the school day no one wants to join another Zoom call.” 

When speaking with students at Allderdice about why they liked WIN Wednesdays, most of them stated it was a good time to sleep in and catch up on work. The day off has also helped them to focus on their mental health. Calla Fiscus, a sophomore at Allderdice, stated “I like the WIN Wednesday system because it gives me a day to take a break and recollect myself and my school work. It has also allowed me to move at my own pace and get more work done throughout the day without feeling exhausted and burned out.” 

Giving students mental health days is something that for many years has been neglected. This new system might prove the fact that mental health days are just as important as taking days off for physical health. Sam King, Ana Vazquez, and Sophie Villa, all Allderdice seniors, stated they appreciated the time to take a much-needed break and focus on their mental health.

Zoom burnout has affected everyone as most of our daily lives have gone virtual. (Nadia Snopeck)

Allderdice is also utilizing WIN Wednesdays to host virtual events with everything from “Freshman Hangouts” to having a time set aside where students or teachers can join and get help navigating Schoology, both of which are important to help students this year and for students who will be returning to Allderdice next year. 

With so many positives of WIN Wednesday, there are negatives too. Many teachers have lost a large chunk of their instructional time and for many AP teachers this can be stressful. Already forced to follow a strictly scheduled curriculum, giving their students all the information they’ll need for their APs in May, and allowing them time to study will be challenging. Sofia Wynn, an Allderdice senior, understands this but also enjoys the days off, she wrote, “As a senior, I appreciate the extra time to apply for scholarships and I like that WIN Wednesdays give us a chance to take a break from our computer screens. Overall, I don’t think it is beneficial to our learning because we are already very behind in our classes.”

Other students also believe there may have been a better way to structure online school in the first place. Maddy Ruder, a senior at Allderdice, states that instead of having the schedule we use for in-person school, the days could be structured in blocks starting later in the morning. Students could attend half of their classes and then have hour-long periods instead of forty-six-minute periods. This could help both with Zoom burnout and the dilemma with getting enough instructional time while also giving students time to sleep in. 

Some feel the day off is unnecessary. Eliza Cham, a senior at Allderdice, wrote the idea of it is cool but there’s no structure for kids to be motivated to do the work they’re missing so it feels more like a random day off. Which is nice, but not helpful.” 

WIN Wednesdays are meant to help make online school a little easier for all the students in Allderdice. Hopefully, they will be able to use this time to help themselves academically and mentally. While this change was only made within a few schools, many may be permitted to follow and then soon we may be able to see each other inside the building again.