In March of 2019, Kennedy students left school, assuming that they would return within two weeks. Some celebrated a longer Spring Break, and others celebrated the extended time they got to study for a test. Nine months later, online schooling due to the coronavirus pandemic has led to a change in students’ reactions to virtual school. Initially, students believed that it would be less challenging, but the lack of structure has taken a toll on people. With virtual school, students have to keep themselves accountable. Without bells to remind students what class to go to or when their break has ended, the organization that in-person school provided is no longer a privilege.
In addition to the daily schedule and the academic responsibility that the school provided, students also lost the opportunity to socialize with the people they interacted with daily. Whether they were spending lunch in their favorite teacher’s classroom or seeing friends in classes and halls, students had the chance to talk to someone instead of a computer screen. One of the most important ways that students socialize is through extracurricular activities like sports and clubs. For some, they were doing something fun that sparked their interests, and for others, it was an activity that allowed them to spend less time at home.
Without the discipline and escape that school provides, students’ mental health has been affected. Some Kennedy students have expressed that they feel stressed and unmotivated, and their mental health has been impacted negatively due to the pandemic. For some, like Jessica Perez, staying at home has “made school and learning feel [like] an option.” Without the demand of the standard system, students have found the responsibility difficult. Lindsey Nhe commented that she has trouble learning as some of her teachers “are not considerate” about the amount of work they give, “which leads to [little] motivation.” Some students believe that they are getting too much work or feeling like they have to teach themselves on top of their busy schedules. Other students aren’t able to reach their teachers and find it hard to navigate through the lessons and tasks by themselves.
The repetition of school days online is another factor that makes online school that much more complicated. Most students wake up in the same room, do their schooling in that room, and end their day there. With little change in scenery, maintaining focus can be stressful. It can also be challenging to ignore distractions such as phones and the new tab button that can be easily reached. Kennedy graduates attending college have been feeling similarly. Nicole Fernandez explained that the restrictions on students attending campus made her feel lonely since her options for socializing were minimized.
On the other hand, Ericha Belle stated that the pandemic helped her “self reflect and realize how much time [she] takes for granted.” In a similar spirit, students have also been taking some of their time to practice self-care in order to help them de-stress. Baking, writing, watching movies, taking walks, meditating, listening to music, and journaling are some of the few ways that Kennedy students are taking a break from the stressors of life. Considering national and global events, there is a lot of anxiousness. Practicing self-care habits allows one to notice when their body and mind need a break. Taking these breaks gives room for a healthy balance between personal lives and other requirements such as school. During this time, it is crucial to find a way of escaping the demands of reality in order to create a sense of stability.