Student Voices on Education and the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Ambivalent Year

By Andre Canales

The world experienced history in the process of being written as COVID-19 evolved into a global pandemic, forcing the people to adopt a cautious lifestyle for over a year. This lifestyle created a shift in everyone’s lives, adjusting their daily routines, submitting to mandates, and compensating for their very own health and safety to continue people’s livelihoods or education. Students

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everywhere faced an unprecedented system of learning challenging them to abruptly switch over and academically perform electronically; an environment outside of the regular comfort zone. At very young ages, high school students lived through a time of great turmoil in history that left a profound mark on their academic careers effecting each student uniquely and differently leaving them with their own personal experiences to evoke and reflect on.

Lily Hannibal

instagram: @lilyhanniball

When asked to briefly describe her senior year experience studying during COVID-19 at Oregon High School, Lily Hannibal said it was hard, less than interesting, a change of pace, and a stress on mental growth, but essentially— easy. At the start of the year, she assumed it would a “hybrid version of schooling,” however, she endured a minor phase of imbalance at the beginning of the semester as she took courses that had a higher intensity than the classes she took in the second semester. She managed through the year with a head-on attitude, driving her to smoothly adjust to online-based schooling. With the pandemic putting everyone’s life on hold, this ultimately had effects on Lily’s future.

“It caused a lot of problems with my friendships,” she said, “But also, in positive ways, I didn’t feel the pressure of knowing what college I’m going to go to.”

Ultimately, Lily made it clear that she benefitted from this distance, progressing and evolving her mental health into a confident mindset. The more the year advanced and the more familiar she became with the system, she was able to fluently balance school, work, and her social life. She was aware of how easy it was to lose focus and neglect her responsibilities, but despite this acknowledgment, Lily said she felt her level of productivity improve as the support system she received from teachers was very adequate.

The school maintained phenomenal communication and affirmed that the teacher’s help, though remote, is just as dependable and just as present as if the school was still physically in session. Because of her level of flexibility from this school year, she appreciated studying at home as it gave her a chance to decompress at the gym. While she predominantly benefitted from a distanced form of learning, Lily admitted that she did have some regression.

“I went to pick up my graduation stuff and I noticed the anxiety I had,” Lily said. “I was such an outgoing person before the pandemic but that gave me anxiety. It’s clear that this pandemic gave me social anxiety.”

Holistically, Lily took advantage of this pandemic to grow a good work ethic and meet new people in her everyday settings. And because of a successful year, Lily’s future exudes genuine brilliance.

Dezirea Stone-Reid

instagram: @dezirea.reid

Graduating from James Madison Memorial High School, Dezirea said her senior year was stressful (at first), slow, and entertaining. When it was first announced that her senior year would be online, she was moved with little certainty. Having to become familiar with applications and technology that the school provided was challenging to adapt to from home — away from the schools staff members who could help her get acquainted. Though after making her first steps into the school year, she found that her transition into a remote-based education was made with admirable ease, pacing herself in a timely manner.

Because of this idyll approach, her success fell completely under her responsibility, taking advantage of her high school career and benefitting from an unusual school year. As each of the days became into months, she developed skills to multitask. Her grades improved exponentially.

But despite the positive effect online schooling had on her academically, this is not a style of learning Dezirea would want to carry into college.

“I wouldn’t want to (do online schooling), only because I’d want to experience going to class in college,” Dezirea said. “I know it’s all kind of the same thing but it’s also different.”

She furthered her argument to say she’d be open to doing some classes online but an in-class math course would be non-negotiable. When asked about her level of productivity, Dezirea made it clear that because of the system and support her school devised, she was able to maintain a consistent focus.

“I felt more productive this year,” she said, “but, it did suck not being able to be social with anybody.”

And after announcing the cancelation of prom, sport-events, and other high school events that are traditional to the senior year experience, she thought it was ill-fated that there was no other choice but to miss out on highlighted moments in her last year before graduating, though she found solace through her family the more time they spent together under the same roof.

And during the time she planned and spent outdoors, she made sure to breathe the fresh air through biking and through any other activities. Dezirea flourished both academically and as a person, when taking everything into account, and will continue to as her story grows into something grand.

Yussef Diaz Garca

instagram: @yussefdg

In four words, Yussef Diaz Garcia, a junior from Lafollette High School, described his junior year academic experience as different, stressful, dependent, and to-its-own. At first, online schooling occurred to him as a grand idea to compensate during the COVID-19 pandemic for the student’s safety and academics. However, this perspective shifted as each month passed. He noticed this soon after steadily adopting at-home-based schooling, that it was easy to become uninvolved with the material provided online.

“It was really just about being dependable on yourself and being present (in class),” he said.

With an unusual year abruptly introduced, Yussef thought it was difficult to sync good communication between the school and the students. He dedicated thorough effort to find a balance between school, work, and life as early in the year it proved to be less than easier as he expected. He found himself trying to coordinate times between work and school that often clashed and negated one or the other. This left him frequently calling off work to attend school and asking for permission from the school to put in work at his job during class.

On his best days, he found time to decompress at the gym. Despite a year that demanded a lot of crucial planning, he appreciated that the year allowed him to study at his own pace but feels his level of productivity suffered being away from an educational environment.

“Honestly, I was way more productive in school,” he said, “I feel like having someone be there to actually help you in person is a lot more engaged.”

In a favorable addition, the year had little impact on his high school career being a junior. Missing out on cheerful high school experiences, although he felt ambivalent, he thought was trivial.

“There’s always next year,” he stated.

Because of a year that didn’t fulfill its purest potential, Yussef would like to resume school in a classroom. He believes the learning environment set in a classroom is more impactful than a screen could ever be. And with one year left in Yussef’s high school career, time is well within his grasp to continue to succeed.

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Andre Canales grew up in Madison, having a deep touch for creativity and discovered what he could achieve through the movements of his pencil. Carrying the hobby into his older years, he developed an aptitude to write hard and clear; it was through his creative writing teacher from his senior year who introduced him to his ability to fluently write and recreate colorful passion becoming more and more evident through his college papers and letters written to those who appreciated his words. Through the books of his favorite writers, he was enlivened through the interesting words they embellished into pictures and delve deeper into his passion for writing with strength and emotions and has continued to since 2019 — pursuing a career as a writer. To view more of his work, visit andrecanales.com.

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