A Day in the Life of a Student

You might think that heading to a classroom each day is the “normal” way to go to school, but there are lots of ways to learn! At PA Virtual, our students attend virtual classes and complete lessons with the help of their learning coaches and teachers, and they also socialize with their classmates online and in-person.

Below are some accounts from PA Virtual students. None can quite agree on the best aspect of PA Virtual, but some of their favorite parts of the school include:

  • The ability to work at your own pace – which can include doing your favorite, or tackling your hardest, subjects first!
  • Getting personalized help from supportive teachers each day
  • Participating in music lessons and sport clubs with other students
  • Being able to complete an entire week’s worth of a subject at once to free up time when they need it

Elementary School – K-4

Derek, Fourth Grade, Chester County

When I wake up in the morning, I eat breakfast first, then I watch some videos on YouTube (usually Minecraft videos).

On a normal day, I’ll bring my books over to the computer and sign on to Blackboard so we can look at my agenda to see if there is any work I need to catch up on and what my main priorities are for the day.

And then we start!

I usually like to start my day with vocab because it’s the easiest, but I take other classes like math, science, language arts, literature, spelling, GUM (grammar, usage, mechanics), history, and composition. Writing composition is a little harder, and sometimes takes me a little longer, so I like to save that for after lunch.

Wednesdays are a special day. On Wednesdays, I log into Blackboard, but then go to a local church where I meet with other kids from surrounding counties who are cyber- or home-schooled, and we take classes in art, music, and phys ed. After that, we come home and I eat lunch. Then I have my live History class in the afternoon, so I have to make sure I log in at the right time.

After I’m done with school or need a break, I like to play outside, play games, and watch a little TV. On Fridays, I do some classes, and sometimes go on PA Virtual outings, and I go play volleyball. Once a month, I do a co-curricular given by PA Virtual in American Sign Language.

Once on a school day, my family went to Washington, DC. We took a train and I took my laptop and hot spot and did classes on the train. Then we toured the Capitol and I even met Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. That was neat!

Intermediate School – 5-6

Blaise, Fifth Grade, Westmoreland County

RING RING! My alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. I go into the living room and watch some TV. Then at 7:30 a.m., I get breakfast and get ready for school. Once it‘s 8:00 a.m., I go downstairs and start up my computer. Then I log in to Blackboard and K12, and I check my e-mail. I do some math CLO until it is time for math class at 8:20 a.m. CLO is short for Compass Learning Odyssey, which is a website where my teacher has us do math and literature assignments.

After math, I do two spelling lessons. Normally, halfway through my second spelling lesson, I feed my dog and take him outside. Then I finish spelling and log into literature at 10:10 a.m. Around 11:00 a.m. I take a half hour lunch break, and then I do my GUM (grammar) lesson. After GUM, I do a vocabulary lesson.

At 12:45 p.m., I log into history class – my personal favorite! On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I have another synchronous (live) class after history – science. If it’s any other day, I do art or music (my least favorites) after I am done with history. After those I’m all done with classes for the day.

On the second Tuesday of every month, I volunteer at my church’s local food bank. This is one of the reasons why I like PA Virtual. When I was in a brick and mortar school, I could only volunteer in the summer. I like that classes go at my own pace and that I can move my schedule around if I need to be flexible. I like having free time on Fridays to go to outings and meet other kids. This is my 2nd year with PA Virtual, and so far my teachers have been great!

Middle School – 7-8

Javier, Seventh Grade, Philadelphia County

People often ask me what it is like attending cyber school. Most of the days everything is simple, just the way I like it, but then there are other days where there is a ton of work to do and a lot of stress to handle, just like if I went to a traditional school. Some days are weird too; for instance, I’m writing this while I lie on a mattress that’s just sitting here in my living room.

I start every day by waking up and getting ready for school. At 8:00 a.m., my family goes to our work area and turns on our computers. Funny thing is, our work area is actually down in the basement, and the entire basement was repainted and refurnished to look like a normal school. We have school desks, bookshelves, new flooring, and bins where we keep supplies.  After we turn the computers on, the school setting transforms, making us no longer feel at home! First, we check all the work we have to do for the day – it’s called our daily plan and we find it on the PA Virtual website. I’m not the only one down there working though; my brother, sister, and uncle all have work to be done, and classes to attend. I know what you’re thinking: “did he just say his uncle goes to school with him?” Well he does, but he’s only about a year older than me so it makes a little more sense. I attend two synchronous classes: one for math, and one for language arts. I do every other subject asynchronously, although there are tons of options for students to personalize their learning experience with more synchronous classes.

When we are working, I will usually joke around and make everyone laugh. One of my favorite parts of the school day is watching the time countdown to lunch. Why do I watch the time, you ask? Because lunch is awesome, that’s why! We get to watch TV, and eat delicious home-cooked food. Most of the time the lunch lady, which is also my mom, will make us something good to eat like burgers or macaroni. Lunch lasts 1 hour; after that, I have to head back to school to complete my work. For my family, this is what going to cyber school is usually like.

One of the things I worried about before I joined PA Virtual was that I was going to be anti-social.  I’m sure that I was not the first to think cyber school students are anti-social. Turns out going to school online gives me plenty of opportunities to be social. In fact, I think it’s better than traditional public schools. In an online setting, I was able to develop leadership skills in virtual classrooms, and outside of what most people think counts as “school.”  I learned to communicate with kids who are my age, but also ones who are younger and older than me.

The school organizes outings for us where we can go to a place like the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum to learn about how firefighters used to dress, drive, and fight fires. Another great outing we went to was in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday! My family,  along with many other kids and parents, came together to play games, do arts and crafts, and just have fun socializing with each other. At our outings, PA Virtual usually ties in some kind of service learning component to help the local communities across the state. At the Dr. Seuss outing, we got to help spread awareness and collect donations for people with blood cancer.

PA Virtual also has extracurricular opportunities. For instance, I am part of the National Junior Honor Society, also known as NJHS. In this organization, we think about fun projects to do that will help those in need. I have been in this school for four years, and I still love it here!

High School – 9-12

Lexi, Eleventh Grade, Franklin County

I wake up and roll out of bed. My first class begins in an hour, and I shuffle to my desk. Plopping into my seat, I hold down the power button until the computer springs to life. My mouth expands into a yawn, and I watch the colors swirl on the screen.

With the appearance of the blue log-in screen, I position my fingers on the keyboard, flying over the letters as I type in my password. The chime alerts me that I’ve been admitted, and I immediately click on Chrome.

My usual routine of opening three tabs commences. I log into Blackboard first, email second, and Sapphire third. I scan my morning emails quickly before putting the ten college advertisements into a designated folder. I open the two school emails, one reminding me of a National Honor Society meeting in the afternoon.

Almost satisfied with my grades, I leave the Sapphire portal to open up my classes and peruse the schedule for the week. With some time before my first synchronous class starts, I head to the OLS (OnLine School) to knock out my elective for the day. I open up Creative Writing and fall into the world of poetry.

I glance at the clock; five minutes until my Chemistry class starts. I rush back to Blackboard. A few clicks in the Collaborate tab, and I’m logged into the session.

My friend is already in class, and the chat permission is enabled, so I strike up a brief conversation about Doritos before the voice of the teacher transmits over the microphone. I flip open my notebook and solve the bell-ringer problem on the board.

An hour and a half of taking notes is finished. I finally switch from my pajamas to real clothes before waddling to the kitchen for lunch. Heating up a mug of soup, I head back to my bedroom to eat and work. I finish Creative Writing, and then watch a YouTube video as I scrape out the last drops of soup.

My English class starts in another ten minutes, but I like to be early. I log in and wait for the study of Hamlet to begin. The teacher appears a little while later and gives us chat permission. Before class even starts, I accidentally get into a disagreement with a classmate over a theme found in the play.

The teacher gives us two whiteboards and ten minutes on the timer to write for our warm-up prompt. I head to the bottom of the second page to scribble my observations.

After she reads a sampling of our work, she sends us off to watch an actual performance of Hamlet online. When that’s finished, I ask if we may pick our groups for group work that day, and with her permission, I jump to Room 6 with my friends to look closer at Hamlet on the OLS.

We manage to still learn elements pivotal to the play, even with a few clown jokes.

Class ends, and I check over my responsibilities on my weekly plans. With a groan, I realize I have Chemistry homework, but I manage to knock it out quickly. My computer tabs are closed, and I prepare for the next thing in my day.

After some chores and downtime, I head off into a thousand directions. If it’s a Monday, I’m at Robotics, which encompasses my life for the first four months of the year. Beginning in January, we have six weeks to build a robot and then in spring compete at regional events  in Pennsylvania and—this year—Tennessee. I’ll be typing at my computer and preparing for our next competition as I am one of the two students in charge of the scouting portion of the competition. If it’s a Tuesday, I might attend my church’s youth group. After a lesson, we play a hide-and-seek game called Sardines, and I always win by hiding in the darkest place in a long hallway. If it’s Wednesday, I’m at a guitar lesson, learning another string. Count me in at a robotics meeting again on Thursday, still working on my responsibilities for competition. Winding down my week on Friday, I’m awaiting the premiere of a new Girl Meets World episode or working on a book. I might be writing, editing, or working on publishing; I’m about to have published five novels. It is easy to see cyber school allows me some flexibility and I lead a full life.

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