Article & Photo By: Alice Brookston
Whether you’re a student, parent, or teacher, you’ve likely noticed that these uncertain times have proved to be a challenge for students. Many students have found it incredibly difficult to find the motivation to engage in learning.
Sonoma County students have already been through an extensive amount of trauma over the past few years, and the isolation that this pandemic has caused for many students is making it increasingly harder for students to focus. Since 2017, students have endured multiple fires, power outages, and now, a global pandemic that has remained vigilant in Sonoma County, leaving it in the purple tier, and further limiting “normal” life for students.
These events have proved to be incredibly disruptive to students’ learning, as an increasing amount of failing grades emerged from this first quarter, almost double the amount from last year according to some superintendents of secondary districts. Many might be quick to place the blame for this on students who were already previously struggling, but it has been shown that this increase of failing grades comes from all kinds of students, even some who were previously achieving straight-As.
There have been many disputes as to what this increase in failing grades has been caused by, and it seems that there is not just once cause, but rather a large sum of contributing factors to the problem such as recent traumas, a mental health crisis and a shifting workload in classes.
Students have been reported to have increased amounts of anxiety and depression, something which has greatly affected many students’ work ethic. Many students have found it difficult to engage in their classes, zoom meetings, assignments and overall learning because of this arising mental health crisis.
A lack of motivation from students has made this extended period of distance learning much more difficult to the average student. Without peer interactions, teacher and student communication and an increasing amount of work as the year goes on, students have found it harder and harder to engage in their work.
Alongside that, the workload students receive from their teachers has been shown to be very different than the amount of outside assignments they were getting last year. While in-person learning was still commencing, students partook in lectures, student activities and did many of their assignments in class.
Now, because of the shift to distance learning, the amount of time spent learning class materials, studying the material and working on assignments is much more limited, making the amount of work outside of class seem much larger than before. Instead of doing work with other peers or with the active help from teachers, most assignments are intended to be completed individually, making it seem more like homework than in-class assignments.
Overall, because of this, the workload students receive feels much more strenuous and seems to seep into most students personal time, making it all the less appealing for students to engage in. Alongside that, receiving help on assignments is much more difficult than before seeing as responses from most teachers are not immediate and peer work has become less prominent in classes.
While many students have suffered because of the switch from in-person learning to online learning, there are also a number of students who have managed the change well, such as Lyric Pearson, a senior at Santa Rosa High School.
Pearson claimed that “During zooms, my teachers often go over homework problems, and they make sure that we always understand what is expected of us for assignments. My academic stress this year is the same as it was last year. With that being said, it’s easy for me to get anxious/ overwhelmed with school; I’m a perfectionist and I often overwork myself. However, the new block schedule has allowed me plenty of time to get my homework and projects done. Though distance learning is challenging at times, I’ve certainly gained discipline.”
Carson Cook on the other hand, a junior at Santa Rosa High School feels that her “workload has definitely increased because now 99% of the work that we are doing is homework and on top of that we still have zooms to attend.”
Cook also commented that, “I’d definitely say that I spend more time on schoolwork because we start school at 8:30am but I usually stop working for the day at like 9pm. And that’s on an average, sometimes it’s later. But it’s because a lot of what we’re doing is not engaging so it takes a long time to get through even one assignment plus a lot of other distractions. But even when I do take breaks for food and what not I think about my schoolwork, so it is basically a vicious cycle.”
With all of these factors taken into account, a reliable work ethic has become increasingly challenging to maintain, making student life much more difficult for many. In reality, the most we can do is encourage students and teachers to further communicate and reevaluate expectations for learning in the future, seeing as how we may be stuck with distance-learning for quite some time.