Image Via AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Back-to-School During a Global Pandemic: How am I supposed to build a birdhouse from my bedroom?
Students Share Their Experiences
From getting up later because you don’t have to get to school, to trying to figure out how to do chemistry class online, young people are adjusting to a school experience that they never could have imagined before COVID-19.
At Cultures of Dignity we always seek to let young people share their experiences with adults so we can understand each other better. So we asked high school and college students we work with around the world about their experiences navigating school and the impact of COVID-19. From fully remote to hybrid models, these young people share with us what they miss most, what they are enjoying, the challenges they face, and the adjustments they’ve had to make to this new world.
Here are their words.
‘I miss all the little things that made school enjoyable.’
Online school has been quite a unique experience. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I never really thought something like this would happen and so to be honest everything has been disorientating. My school is currently working on a four class a day schedule— each for one with a lunch break in the middle and advisor after. And while I like the fact that classes are shorter as much as any other person, sometimes it’s also overwhelming because it feels as though I’m having to go through material so much faster during virtual classes.
I definitely miss a lot of pre-COVID-19 things like the casual human interaction we took for granted. While phones and video calls are good enough of a replacement, I still miss chatting with my friends in the middle of the hallway, getting a tardy because we stopped for food for too long during breaks and just all the little things that made school enjoyable.
– Radhika, 15 (Mumbai)
‘I don’t understand how I am supposed to build a birdhouse from my bedroom.’
Going back to school was really weird to me for a few reasons. One was I never really felt like last school year ended because we had no finals and it was all online. Usually you get the thrill of the final bell ringing on the last day but all I did was shut my computer. Now being back with new classes and new teachers is just strange to me. Another reason was the way my school’s restart plan was set up. They split us up into 3 groups that rotate in and out of school, the kids that aren’t in school watch their classes on Zoom.
I got to go back for the first time yesterday and it was odd seeing everyone wearing masks, one way hallways, and the building so empty. Most of my classes have less than 6 kids in school. There are some classes that are really hard to do from home. For example, I’m taking woodworking and I don’t understand how I am supposed to build a birdhouse from my bedroom. Also it’s really hard to pay attention to boring classes like chemistry from home. I do like that our day finishes at 12:30 which is two hours earlier than normal. One thing I do know is that it is definitely going to take time to get used to this new schedule for both teachers and students.
-Gus, 16 (New Jersey)
‘I can tell my teachers have put in so much effort.’
Having school 100% online isn’t that bad. I can tell my teachers have put in so much effort to make it go smoothly and for the most part, everything has gone well because of their care and attention. So, my classes have run and while it’s probable that we’re losing out on valuable in-person learning, it doesn’t feel like it. That being said, I would do anything to have the classic senior year experience: football games, parties, my soccer season, senioritis, college application stress. I would take all the negatives, but we do what we can and stay positive.
-Micah, 18 (Colorado)
‘Online school just doesn’t quite foster the same sense of community that drew me to my school in the first place.’
I appreciate that my school is prioritizing community health by going completely online, but I miss being physically surrounded by people who have similar academic goals and experiences as me. I miss being motivated and inspired by my peers. Online school just doesn’t quite foster the same sense of community that drew me to my school in the first place.
– Nikki, 20 (Iowa)
‘I can’t just raise my hand to ask for help privately because I’m too embarrassed to ask a question, because now the entire class has to pay attention to my question.’
This year has definitely been different in many ways for me academically, socially and emotionally which all have been affected by quarantine and COVID. The ending of school last year was definitely messy, and disappointing. Our school had all these end of the year fun activities which I didn’t get to experience. This year, it’s more formal, and though many might say it’s much easier, it isn’t for me.
Yes, we don’t even have to get out of bed. Cool. Except for the fact that it’s ten times harder not to fall asleep now. Even if it’s things like not being able to get onto Zoom, they affect my learning. I can’t just raise my hand to ask for help privately because I’m too embarrassed to ask a question, because now the entire class has to pay attention to my question.
Of course, another thing is friends. School was much easier when we went to school physically because I had more fun in class talking to my friends. Yeah, texting is cool, but it isn’t as fun. I’m hoping to get through my classes easier this year, and to go back to school soon (sagely of course). But hey, if none of that happens, at least I get to say “I survived a pandemic.”
– Nadia, 14 (California)
‘I’m thankful but also disappointed at the same time.’
I haven’t really gotten used to having a mix of online and in-person classes this semester at college, but it’s probably a good thing it hasn’t become a norm quite yet. I miss getting to know the people in my classes – there just isn’t really a place for that with COVID restrictions and anxieties. Being at a university where cases are not really reported on much, but knowing that the number is probably rising limits my ability to feel safe about visiting family or friends. I’m thankful but also disappointed at the same time that this is my last year at CSU. When I’m overwhelmed with school and stressors of the pandemic, my outlets are hanging out with roommates, running outside, or playing music!
– Taylor, 20 (Fort Collins)
‘I’m concerned that once we are allowed on campus, I’ll struggle to get involved and make friends…’
I keep telling people that I’m “supposed to be attending George Washington University.” We were one of the first universities to go completely remote, calling off in early August. I felt as if we were blindsided, as we had been receiving emails about changing building names and move-in dates until a few days before. In retrospect, I understand and appreciate how proactive GW was, and the early decision allowed me time to figure out how to adjust to staying at home.
It was definitely difficult sending my friends off to their respective schools, knowing that they wouldn’t be allowed visitors, and fishing out Target receipts to return bedding, picture frames, and string lights. GW is being very persistent about hosting virtual activities, most notably, a virtual rush done on Minecraft, called “Blocky Bottom” (a play on the city campus, Foggy Bottom); however, I keep finding myself shrugging off these virtual extracurriculars. When I am not staring at my computer screen, I have been working at a small coffee shop and taking Muay Thai classes. Most of the new friends I make are twice my age, but I don’t mind!
I’m concerned that once we are allowed on campus, I’ll struggle to get involved and make friends, as I haven’t been making an effort to do so now. Most people tell me that they feel bad for me, while including an anecdote from their senior year of high school or freshman year of college. While it is obviously not ideal, I am confident that these accommodations are keeping people safe, and that is all I can ask for.
– Gabriella, 18 (Pennsylvania)
‘I have to say, I’m not really looking forward to/wanting to go back at all.’
Having Virtual school definitely presents its set of difficulty and easy changes. For starters I can wake up, head downstairs, and make breakfast at a reasonable time. Instead of being confused about what class I need to be in the building, and how I’m going to get there, I have gotten into the habit of remembering what time my zoom call is, carrying my coffee up to my desk, shutting off my camera, and writing down my notes for the day.
Something that surprised me is how flexible my schedule is. Personally I have around 3 hours off in the middle of my day. I really enjoy having this time off and have gotten into a healthy ( ish ) routine for myself. My neighbor and I have eaten lunch together every day of school for the past two weeks. I love spending time with other people rather than my family. We also usually go on walks and catch up on the latest of our very exciting zoom meetings ( sarcastic ).
We may be going back to school for two days a week meetings soon. I have to say, I’m not really looking forward to/wanting to go back at all. I hope I can get used to new challenges that may be coming my way in the future! I’m trying to have a positive attitude but also fear the possible changes.
– Alyssa, 14 (Denver)
‘I’m glad that my safety is guaranteed by staying at home but I’m missing all the social, active, and fun parts of being able to go to school everyday.’
Online school definitely has its benefits and disadvantages. I’m able to get my work done quicker and more efficiently at home without the distraction of friends which makes school a little less stressful when I’m not procrastinating. But, I also don’t get to interact with the people I normally would when at school, like the acquaintances that I don’t see regularly outside of school, which makes it a lot more lonely. Staying in one place for my work helps me stay focused. I’m also able to personalize and make my area cozy.
Although, having to stay in one space for most of the day gets boring quickly and makes me feel super inactive. I’m glad that my safety is guaranteed by staying at home but I’m missing all the social, active, and fun parts of being able to go to school everyday. I also don’t get to show off my awesome outfits!
– Jacey, 16 (Colorado)
‘It is still very difficult adjusting to life while being stuck in my house.’
Even after half a year, it is still very difficult adjusting to life while being stuck in my house. Many of my friends have grown tired of being stuck indoors and start to hang out together. Every time I go to join them, I am constantly reminded of the COVID-19 poses. My family have even had a few close calls with close friends and family. With schools reopening and COVID cases around the country growing exponentially, my family is deciding it best to become more protective and remain in quarantine for the safety of ourselves and others.