What Students Think About Their Third Year of Pandemic Schooling (Opinion) – Education Week

(This is the first post in a two-part series.)

The new question-of-the-week is focused on student responses:

How does it feel to be back in school? What feels good, bad, or strange? What are you looking forward to and what are you worried about? What are teachers doing to make you feel welcome, safe, and supported, and what more could they do?

I periodically invite students to share their thoughts on questions regarding their schooling, and you can see all those posts at Student Voices.

These commentaries have included students’ experiences at various points during the pandemic, and I thought it would be a good idea to check in with them now as we enter our third COVID-19-affected school year.

Today, Pachia Xiong, Kate Eggert, Lillyanna Her, and Luis Alberto Sicairos Galvan contribute their commentaries.

Expectations & Worries

Pachia Xiong is a junior at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.:

Being back in school, I must admit that it feels like nothing has changed, excluding the masks and 6-feet distance. It feels as though it was just yesterday when I was still a freshman adjusting to high school and cheering for the last day before spring break. All of a sudden, I am now a junior with just one year away from entering my last year of high school.

While it is true that the quarantined life was a fever dream, it is as though I was jet lagged as I am still readjusting into the school environment. Having done a year and a half of my school years online, I am almost too relaxed to remember the anxiety I had trying to study for my finals or for upcoming tests. It feels good as I am not as stressed as my freshman year; however, it is also a bad thing as I worry about my grades. What’s surprising is that I am more involved in extracurriculars such as clubs and sports. It is strange as even though I was involved in such activities as a freshman, I had focused more on my studies. Now, it’s almost as though they’ve switched.

Coming back from online, I had looked forward to meeting up with my friends whom I only ever contacted through my various social-media platforms. I looked forward to catching up with them and my peers. It is also the high school experience that I’ve missed out on that I am looking forward to from this year on. And as I have my expectations, I also carry my worries.

My worries are plain and simple, COVID-19. Though we’ve returned to in-school learning, the pandemic has yet to leave us for good. Sadly, as it was just dying down, the number of cases shot back up with the Delta variant. I am worried that my family and friends will catch the virus and fear for their lives. I am even worried about this year as I am not able to balance all of my plans and schedules.

Having returned to school, the teachers had seemingly become more understanding of us as they, too, have been caught up in this entire situation. Many of my teachers have welcomed me and my peers through sarcastic jokes, little activities, and sincerity toward us and our health. They constantly remind us to cover our noses with masks and ask us about our own problems. While appreciative, I simply hope that they can work toward teaching us education’s necessities into our future.

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‘A Mixture of New and Old Experiences’

Kate Eggert is a 10th grader in the Arlington public schools in Arlington, Va.:

Being back in school this year for the first time during the pandemic has been a mixture of new and old experiences. The familiar parts are seeing all my same friends and classmates again. And although the vast majority of my teachers are new to me, it still feels familiar to be back in a classroom and interact with them more. I have the same 15-minute bus ride that oddly I had started to miss. Walking in the same overly colorful hallways has brought me back to two years ago, despite the whole world having changed since.

And, of course, every year new things happen, too. Different classes, more homework, and new people to meet. This year especially has many changes. We all wear masks and eat lunch outside. We all talk about the new COVID cases at our school, hoping that we aren’t the ones quarantined next. But one thing I’ve realized recently is how adaptable people are, especially kids. It’s now normal and routine to wear masks, and I’m so glad we do. If no one wore masks, I would almost certainly be at home sick at this moment. Two of my closest friends have already gotten COVID, and I was in close contact with both of them at school. Thankfully, I didn’t get sick because all of us wore masks.

But other than the COVID scares, the routine I used to be so sick of I now appreciate to a whole new level. Whenever I get too tired of school, I can now put it into the perspective of how fortunate I am to have a building to go to and people to see in person, not just through a computer screen. I now have the opportunity to work on a school play and join three clubs that I never had last year. I can interact with my teachers and talk to them when I’m confused. I get to leave my house every morning, not always knowing what will happen that day. I know it may not seem like it, but going to school is a miniadventure I get to experience every day, one I never truly treasured until it was taken away from me.

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‘It Feels Good to Be Back in School’

Lillyanna Her is a student at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.:

It feels good to be back in school because it’s good to communicate/socialize and meet people face to face. It makes us communicate/socialize more and seems more collaborative together.

What’s bad is I think it’s harder in person than long-distance school Zooming because it’s much easier for me to learn in the Zoom. I think it makes it less boring, I guess.

I am looking forward to getting into more writing and worried about reading because reading is not 100 percent my favorite. I am looking forward to writing more and getting better at poems/poetry and rhymes. I prefer writing to reading.

Teachers make me feel welcome, safe, and supported when they give out a good vibe and good positive words. They could do more by being more out of school and more chill back. Also, let us use our phone as long as we are putting work into our assignments or when it’s finished. They could also not give bad vibes or attitude just because they had a bad day or a student pissed them off. Other than that, if we come for personal help, don’t give out our personal stuff to other staff such as the office staff.

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‘It Feels Different’

Luis Alberto Sicairos Galvan is a student at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif.:

It feels different to be back to school because now we have to wear masks and we can’t be near each other.

I can most certainly guarantee this school year is totally different from last year, when we were online studying on Google Classroom. What I’m looking forward to this year is to succeed in school and try to pass my classes, but the most important thing is to actually learn something new instead of just completing it.

What I’m worried about is what will happen later on during the school year like, for example, what would happen if we have to close down schools again or if it is safe to even go to school right now with the pandemic going on.

Some of my teachers are giving us work that is not that hard to do in order for us to have a better understanding of what work will be like in the future. I don’t have much to say left, but so far this school year has been real confusing for me. That’s all I have to say.

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Thanks to Pachia, Kate, Lillyanna, and Luis for contributing their thoughts.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

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