Breakout rooms take student apathy to a new low


Graphic by Jessica Wu

Breakout rooms have been the most challenging aspect of online learning to overcome.

Kimberly Valdez Chala, Opinions Writers

“Breakout room #4 is closing in 58 seconds.” As these words flashed across the screen, I felt relief as I could finally return to the main room. For the past 15 minutes, I had been staring at the voiceless black squares of my classmates, waiting for someone to unmute and break the silence of our breakout room. Yet nobody was willing to make the first move and initiate the conversation, so we all opted to stay muted and wait till the ordeal ended.
During in-person classes, it never bothered me to be grouped with classmates I had only seen once or twice in the hallways, but that was until breakout rooms came into play. Since virtual learning began and zoom sessions became more demanding, the most frustrating aspect has been breakout rooms.
Gazing at first and last names that offer no responses makes me feel like I am talking to a brick wall. Uncertainty and anxiety arise, and I’m hesitant to share my opinion on the matter we are discussing. Understandably, some students might not feel comfortable turning on their microphones, but miscommunication is taking a toll on our productivity during class activities. Some students may take the chance to discuss the task at hand, but with their efforts usually going unreciprocated, even the more vocal of students are discouraged from speaking up the next time.
Consistently, I have had classmates leave the room while we were working on an assignment or cluelessly asked “what are we supposed to do?” The stressful thing in this situation is that the teacher had already given instructions and waited for questions before sending us off to the breakout room. We lose most of the time explaining the project to distracted classmates who do not take part in the discussion.
Once we return to the main room, all we are left with is an incomplete final product and little information to answer the teacher’s questions. This leaves me with more homework because of the unfinished assignments that were supposed to be completed in the breakout room. What is the point of the breakout room if we are failing to communicate with each other and adhering to the instructions?
Richard Montgomery staff work hard to improve e-learning and ensure their students are in a comfortable environment. Through sending emails about career opportunities, offering before and after school help and the chats with Principal Monteleone on Fridays. Though, it remains important to give all students the tools they need to thrive in the classrooms, whether it is in person or virtual. We need to be understanding and comprehend that not everyone finds themselves in the same situation of succeeding in school, without being negatively affected by their setting. We all learn new topics at a different pace and sometimes we need a place where we can focus all of our attention on the task at hand.
Despite all this, some teachers tried to make the best out of this situation and came up with ideas that ended in great outcomes. Teachers presented a form that allowed students to fill in the names of the classmates they believe they work best with. This technique showed that if we use breakout rooms creatively, the students’ minds will flourish in an environment rich in knowledge and efficiency. My classmates and I finished all of our work and had time to discuss our experience studying from home. “It’s easier to talk with people we actually know,” said sophomore Alexia Verduguez.
Another effective solution that some teachers at RM have chosen to implement is to assign student leaders for each breakout group. The person in charge calls on other students and tries to make them feel included in the discussion. When we do not cooperate as a community, productivity is reduced, knowledge is wasted, time is lost. For the sake of learning and developing our academic skills, we have to try harder and give our best under pressure to survive these troublesome times.
Though, most of the responsibility remains with the students who enter these breakout rooms. RM students must take the first step and set the standard for others by speaking up and always trying to make breakout rooms as effective as possible. Working together, we can create a greater learning environment from home and provide our classmates with the support they need to be the best version of themselves.