The COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to go virtual for the end of the 2019-2021 school year. Although students may have had mixed feelings about it back in March, starting a whole new school year through virtual learning is becoming the tipping point for many, creating a lot of tension around what already is a chaotic year. Virtual learning is the only option we have right now, but it certainly should not be an option that is considered sustainable for students.
The teaching format when we first switched to online learning in the Spring was considerably different from the format for the 2020-2021 school year. Students were not required to attend a class every day, they could go about their day on their own schedule, and they did not have to stay on a Zoom call for 80 minutes straight with their camera on, which they are now required to do every day. This sudden change in routine is having an impact on students, including myself, adding on to the common stresses everyone is experiencing from the pandemic.
With stay-at-home orders, being locked at home gave people no choice but to be isolated from society and social interaction with family and friends. It was also inevitable for people to feel sad knowing that thousands of people were losing their lives to a deadly disease, millions were going unemployed, the loss of loved role models such as Kobe Bryant, and much other discouraging news. Students are already not in the best headspace, having to worry about exploring the uncharted waters of this new school year through virtual learning is doing nothing to improve that.
She goes on to say that teens and tweens may be experiencing these symptoms more because they are in a stage of developing independence from their guardians. In an age where suicide is at a record high among persons aged 10-24, according to a study conducted by the CDC, having the burdens of not being able to see friends, not being able to go outside, and having to learn a whole new learning environment, virtual learning is adding to the negative impact on our youth’s mental health.
In a school-wide survey conducted in the first weeks of the new school year at Don Lugo, students were asked, “In this stay at home/quarantined world, describe being a student right now in one word.” 29% of 1,145 students responded with a negative word. More specifically 4% responded with “difficult” and 15% responded with “stressful.” It goes to show that even in our own school, students are feeling negative in some way or another about being a student, and it can have obstructive consequences in their academic performance.
It is understandable that we have to stay in online learning, because it is our only option if we do not want to risk the health of our students and staff. However this learning environment is negatively impacting student’s mental health. Therefore, I think that it is imperative that everyone does their part by wearing their mask and self-quarantine, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The sooner the spread slows down, the sooner we no longer have to engage in this form of online learning that is affecting us as students and our mental health.