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There are just over 20,000 students in Michigan who are enrolled in a fully online charter public school. Their reasons for choosing their school might vary, but there’s one common thread – these students and their families all feel this is the best educational option for them.
For now, Michigan values these students equally when it comes to funding, but depending on budget discussions in Lansing, that might change. They might be valued less. With so much focus on students who have chosen to attend a fully online charter school, we decided to let one of these students tell her story.
Meet Katherine L. Teng, a junior at Uplift Michigan Academy, a fully online charter public school that has students around the state. We asked Katherine some questions about why she chose Uplift Michigan Academy – and why she loves being a student at a fully online charter school.
What was your experience like at your former school and why did you decide to come to Uplift Michigan Academy?
I formally attended a public middle school up until my eighth year. It wasn't a bad experience; I would say it's the average experience for any student. Getting to classes on time, rushing to get your homework done by the deadline, and sitting in the lunch room while others filled the cafeteria with their white noise.
There were times when I felt uncomfortable due to the setting of it all, but it wasn't a bad school, it was just the students who I would be cautious around. Around the end the 2019-2020 school year, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the states, and boy was that an entire train wreck for everyone.
I was then transitioned into online schooling, Uplift Michigan Academy, to be exact.
Going forward with online schooling was a dream come true for an introvert like myself. I thrived in solitude and peace than in the rowdy halls of a public school. It was a strange but amazing change for me.
It's safe to say, Uplift Academy was the best choice I could have asked for. I do not regret attending the time I've been here.
Why is online learning the right educational choice for you?
As someone who has a short social battery and is quite sensitive to being judged by society, online learning was a better match for me. I never really thrived in social settings. I can only talk for so long before everything becomes too much for me to handle. This leads to me shutting myself in and recharging, which never lasted long due to public school being a constant thing.
With online learning, however, I get to choose what I do instead of pressuring myself into doing it. While yes, deadlines are still a thing, I don't feel as stressed as I had when I was still public. Another factor I love about online learning is that your schedule is very flexible. You can wake up at 8 or 9 a.m. if you wanted to, just as long as you have done all your work and stayed on your computer for six-and-a-half hours.
Something I learned here is that you don't entirely have an excuse to not have a good grade here. The curriculum is not that hard if you put your mind to it. It's still quite stressful watching your grade go down, however, it's quite simple in getting a grade you thought you could only dream of.
Another thing is that the teachers of Uplift can spend more time one-on-one with you instead of sharing it all with an entire classroom. This gives you a chance to better understand the lesson, instead of dreading asking questions in front of an audience.
A lot of people have some misconceptions about fully online schools and students. What are some of those misconceptions that you’ve heard, and how do you explain to people what it’s really like?
A common misconception, and an annoying one at that, is that "online is easier,” While I do see their reasoning, I would heavily disagree. Yes, it's less stressful, but unlike traditional public schooling which has teachers to remind you what to do, you only have yourself to manage your own time and track your progress. You have to schedule your work on your own, avoid distractions and procrastination, and make sure you're doing what it takes to pass.
Unlike what the public schools' temporary online status from the pandemic was like, Uplift's grading system is not a fail or pass. It's still a school – a school where if you don't do anything, you fail. Or you can try and succeed. The stress can also be slightly more challenging when you add in what type of grade goal you wish to have.
Use me for example, my goal is to earn all A’s in all my years of high school. That would mean I would also need to do well in all classes, as all quizzes in the course count.
What’s your favorite class at Uplift Michigan Academy?
I would have to say my favorite classes are art classes or math classes. Shocker, I know. I’m a student who doesn't despise math with every fiber of their being. I always had a knack for math. It's quite satisfying to watch a formula piece together and solve a question. It's enjoying the way you can use a pencil and write out the numbers and look back at all the progress.
Art is the same with that; it's about the progress for me as well as the result, finding that balance and formula on what to do.
What are your plans after graduation and what kind of career are you looking for?
I don't know what my future holds for me after my graduation. There are many options, but too out there for my current self to say. Possible career choices would also differ from what path I take. Each job would mean a different path I need to down during my college years.
For now? I just wish to get through high school and earn myself a place in a good, high-educational college. All I can want is that my future is bright and able to give me the life I want.