While COVID-19 impacted almost every aspect of people’s lives, many families experienced the added challenge of schools closing. Students went from going to school at eight in the morning until four in the afternoon to a confusing attendance system and completely online learning. The most recent shift was to an optional hybrid model where students could elect to attend class in person in the afternoons in small cohorts. During this strange year most students struggled to adjust to online learning.
Megan Long, a junior at Ida B Wells High School is one of many students who struggled with these changes. “I personally was not a fan of online learning, and felt that the teachers did not connect well with their students,” said Long. “But I understand that these times make it very difficult to do so. I definitely took a toll on my mental health and made me very overly stressed in all of my classes throughout my junior year.”
Although times were tough with online learning, Megan was able to connect with other teens online, like Ryan Moose, a senior at Hyde Park High School in Austin, Texas. He began the school year online for a mandatory two week period, and then was given the option to go in person. He did stay online for a few months for his own reasons, but then transitioned to in-person learning.
The teachers at his school were far more helpful in person than online. “Many of the online kids felt like they fell through the cracks or that the teachers weren’t doing a good job of making them feel engaged,” he said. Teachers in schools demonstrate being very good at communicating with their students, as well as they can. At times there might be subjects/assignments that they can have trouble explaining in the more complicated classes. “I felt like I still learned while I was online while really enjoying the hot lunches at my house,” he said. “Overall it was a worse experience than in person.”
Jennifer Katzenstein is the director of Psychology and Neuropsychology at the Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She observed the impact of remote learning on children of all ages in a John Hopkins newsletter on online learning: “Increased screen time usage, especially for non-academic activities, has been found to be linked with increases in depression, anxiety and perceived attention problems.”
Students all over the world had trouble transitioning into online learning as a whole. Students like Moose were used to that human interaction every day at school. “I like interacting with people everyday, and my mood and performance both increased significantly after going back in-person,” he said.
Megan Long feels the same as Moose with enjoying in person interactions far more than online. “I really enjoyed it in-person much more, and looked forward to getting ready everyday and seeing my favorite teachers,” she said.
The world was and is heavily affected by the deaths, sickness, and changes in society. Everyone is hopeful that we all will be able to start rebuilding to how we used to be, to better ourselves as a community and students learning.
But Moose ends on a hopeful note. “I’m confident that in person school will now be seen as a luxury by students, and I can’t wait to experience normal life,” he said.