🗣 Finding Our Student Voice 🗣 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team Blog Surrounding Student Life
Jerald My realization of the ramifications following the transfer of in-school to online learning never quite started until the late months of my freshman year. Looking forward to the few weeks off from...
school, I had the presumption that schools would only remain closed for the announced two weeks. Feeling grateful, I allowed myself to enjoy a short break away from the stress and assignments gradually creeping in due to the nearing of the end of our school year. Blindly, I, like many others, hadn’t fully understood the overall situation or even considered the probable outgrowth of the coronavirus. Online learning was truly an unanticipated experience, and if it were possible to describe the emotions I felt during this phase, they would be feelings of burnout, isolation, and exhaustion. Fortunately, due to a state-wide decision, online learning was no longer mandatory for schools in Tennessee. Having spent the entirety of my sophomore year learning while at home, I had become a completely different person. Not having the ability to go outside, being deprived of social interaction, and separation from family and friends all affected me and my health during this period. Looking back now, I can’t imagine that I had once believed that online learning was more advantageous compared to learning while in school.
The transition back to the more traditional method of in-person learning was somewhat challenging for me, in ways that I had not envisioned before. Since the beginning of high school, I had always been a more talkative and social person in any given setting; seemingly so, possibly due to the lack of interaction with others during the quarantine period, I developed a form of social anxiety.Now being outside in social environments, feeling the urge to reconnect with friends and family to make up for the time left lost, I often felt uncomfortable engaging in conversation or even being in the presence of a friend or stranger. Contrary to how easy it once was to hold a conversation, something so simple as a handshake made me feel uneasy. Even now that I continue through the process of recuperating my old self, I still don’t quite feel like the same person that I had once been before the isolation phase had begun. Thankfully, being able to participate in more engaging environments—now accessible due to the decline of Covid cases—I have made some serious progress. And although the process of re-developing skills may sometimes seem arduous, I enjoy exploring and doing things outside of my comfort zone. On the positive side of things, some benefits that I have seen since coming back to the classroom are more interactive lectures, ease of learning and understanding subjects, hanging out with friends, and lack of boredom. Hopefully, we as a community will be able to continue in a healthy and safe environment, free from the possibility of going back into a quarantining phase once more.
Samuel COVID-19 has affected every aspect of modern life since March of 2020. In my opinion, there has not been a single thing that the pandemic has not choked in some manner. I entered this pandemic as a sophomore, just seven days after my sixteenth birthday. Foolishly, I (like so many others) believed that this would only be three weeks out of school, that the pandemic would be over by the next school year, and we would all be in this together. Then nearly two years passed, and it felt like both forever yet somehow no time at all. As a senior moving into adulthood, I have taken some time to reflect on the chaotic nature of these past two years. This pandemic has done the most to show that adaptability is one of the essential traits that a person can have in an ever-changing world. Even with this, I have to take moments to mourn occasionally. I will never get these teenage years back, and somehow it feels as though they have been wasted. From what I have gathered from talking to other students, this is not an uncommon feeling in the slightest. It seems to be quite universal. The desire to have holidays with family and friends, for late nights at slumber parties, or trips to places besides your bedroom are sensations of longing that have not since left us. I believe the pandemic did not further jade us; instead, it taught us what we truly wish to get out of our lives. As a senior, that means altering my college years to get as much enjoyment as possible. For some, that means quitting a job that gives them no joy or spending more time with their friends. Each of us will carry the collective trauma of this pandemic differently, but it means moving forward for me.
Kaitlyn Along with students, school procedures, structures, and initiatives have been forced to change due to COVID-19. As schools quickly became online across the nation in 2020, administrators faced an uncompromising problem: almost one-third of students did not have access to the internet. In turn, they could not attend classes or complete work, leaving them behind in the dust, limiting their career opportunities, and weakening their comprehension and scope of knowledge. Our overdependence on online learning prevented many students from even having access to their education, a right to which they are entitled. Although it was the only viable option, I believe it could have been handled better, especially in the 2020-2021 school year.
Last year, students were given a choice to either be a distance learner or attend classes online to encourage educational growth without jeopardizing student safety. However, those who opted for the online option were often given the least priority as they failed to engage with the rest of the class or were not given a choice to. Although many teachers attempted to integrate their virtual students with their in-person ones, some failed to do so, repeatedly forgetting zooms or uploading recorded lessons. I, along with many others, found it difficult to fully grasp the material sitting at home from my computer, especially when classes were class-room based.
During the beginning of last year, students who decided to attend in-person were forced to rotate, staying virtual for the first part of the week and then coming to school or vice versa. When I zoomed from my room to class, I found that my ability to accomplish or understand anything was primarily based on the teacher’s teaching style. For example, my English teacher made sure to engage us, speaking directly to us online students and pairing us up in groups. In comparison, my math teacher didn’t host live Zooms at the beginning of the year; instead, he would record the lessons and upload them after class. Watching those videos was mind-numbingly dull, and I could not ask questions or bring up any concerns. A student’s education should not depend on whether or not an educator can teach online.However, that teacher was soon forced to switch to Zoom meetings, which significantly elevated my comprehension and engagement.
How do the policies and availability of opportunities made during the COVID-19 Pandemic stand today? They have become more specifically centered around keeping students in school, changing to allow students to have higher chances of receiving an in-person education. As of October 19, 2021, quarantine and isolation guidelines have been revised to limit the number of educators and students forced to stay home. Those who are fully vaccinated or wear a mask and remain asymptomatic after being traced by close contact no longer have to quarantine, allowing them to keep attending class in person. However, those who exhibit symptoms or do not wear masks have to quarantine for 6-14 days based on their testing status. Unfortunately, those who are forced to self-isolate do not have live access to their class, becoming largely dependent on whether or not their teachers record the lesson or not. If teachers do not share the classwork online, these students are left in the dark for 1-2 weeks, depending on their situation. Even though I have not had to quarantine yet this year, my peers have conveyed the difficulties of being a virtual learner during their isolation period. Although I understand that administrators want to keep us in school, better options need to be offered to those who have no choice but to quarantine.
Additionally, masks are no longer mandated within the classroom as parents have been allowed to opt their children out of the requirement. These policies have been put in place to ensure student attendance, a matter which has presented problems for the past two years. Students failed to attend class or even attempt to complete classwork, putting them at a severe disadvantage compared to their peers. Teachers were unable to hold them accountable as they were left to their own devices. Similarly, students reported overwhelming feelings of disengagement and isolation, showing the mental toll of online school. While these are valid issues I agree need to be addressed, I see no reason as to why students who are forced to quarantine should be disadvantaged in the process of keeping school in-person. Greater emphasis should be placed on these rotating few as no student deserves to be left behind, especially by those who are supposed to lead them.