Hello everyone. My name is Trish. I’m a junior in high school and I’d like to share with you some of the ways that learning during the pandemic has affected me, and how schools can better support students now that we’ve returned to in-person learning after such a difficult time.
When they first announced that we were getting two weeks off of school everyone was actually excited for a break! But no one really understood at the time how long the pandemic would last and what was really coming. Once we began to realize that school was shutting down and virtual learning began, the sense of school community disappeared and I began to feel a sense of loneliness and isolation that affected my motivation for learning.
My education was virtual for a year and a half and we came back to in-person learning at the start of my junior year. The increase in expectations that comes with being a junior, combined with suddenly coming back to school during a pandemic has been really overwhelming. It hasn’t been easy to readjust to what school is supposed to feel like. Teachers tried to mimic what school was like pre-pandemic by structuring classes and giving assignments in the same way as they had before, but you can’t ignore that school isn’t the same as before. Now, when I see all the work that needs to get done and all the assignments I’m missing, I get so overwhelmed that my body and my brain just freeze and I don’t do anything. In most classes, I find every other reason to be distracted when I know I should be doing my work.
For most of my classes, we are seated in rows with the teacher standing at the front. Teachers are giving lectures and students mostly just take notes and listen. Most of the work is packets, writing, and paperwork. Students don’t have leadership roles or ways to be more involved. The focus is on independent learning and students don’t get to build a sense of community. In these classrooms I feel my motivation draining and it’s harder to keep putting in the effort to work as hard as I should. School should be more than just paperwork.
However, this is not true for every class. For example, my photography class is run very differently from my other classes. The classroom is colorful and you can feel a calming and relaxing energy in the room. You can feel that the teacher has put a lot of time and effort into creating what the room looks and feels like. My teacher guides us by giving us the basis of what we need and is there to help us, but doesn’t just lecture us. For instance, we have hands-on lessons and we are actively learning. We even go outside the classroom. The class feels like a community because students are comfortable and have a chance to communicate with each other. It’s easy to stay present in the classroom and I don’t zone out. I feel a greater ability to learn.
There are things that schools and teachers can do to support more students. All classrooms, not just ones like photography but even academic subjects, would benefit from more active and engaged learning, including hands-on projects, student leadership, and more. When students are encouraged to work together it helps to build a sense of community, which is especially important in the midst of a pandemic. After spending so much time learning in isolation, schools should provide students with more opportunities to connect with each other in the classroom. Students should be supported in taking on leadership roles that help us feel more involved in our classes. More students will find success if they feel like they are part of a supportive school community.
My school has received a Safe and Supportive Schools grant and I’d like to thank you for making that possible. Our grant is the first in Massachusetts to focus on student voice. By listening to students, we’re hopeful that our school will be more responsive to what students actually need. Thank you for allowing us to speak today and tell you exactly what we need. I ask that you provide the opportunity for more schools to do this work and by supporting Safe and Supportive Schools, provide more students the chance to have their voices heard. Thank you.
Trish: With the rise in Asian hate crimes, I was afraid to go to school.
“When students are encouraged to work together it helps to build a sense of community, which is especially important in the midst of a pandemic.”
“After spending so much time learning in isolation, schools should provide students with more opportunities to connect with each other in the classroom.”