Teachers obviously aren’t the only people who have to cope with the loss of the end of the school year. Students are dealing with academic, psychological, and emotional hurdles as well. What probably felt like a fun lark to begin with has turned into a long march with an as yet unknown conclusion. While some are trying to maintain their schoolwork, many are just staying busy and trying to get through it in the hopes of better times to come. Seniors, in particular, are struggling with the loss of so many milestone events.
“I miss my friends the most,” Jamison Ramsburg said when asked how he feels about missing so much school. “I also miss my routine.” Jamison’s mom Amy, who teaches English at Hamilton Middle School, explained that Jamison needs routine to thrive. “He has never been able to work on schoolwork at home without anxiety, so this has been challenging, but we grab moments to do homework when we can.”
I never thought I would say, think, or write this, but I kinda miss school.
Shannon Ferrebee, a 6th Grade Social Studies teacher at Jackson Middle school, received a journal from a student that said what a lot of children—and their parents—might well be saying. “Tomorrow is the three-week point of quarantine. THREE WEEKS!” the student wrote. “I’m pretty sure that I’m starting to go crazy. At least a little bit.” Like many others, this student expressed surprise at actually starting to miss school. “I never thought I would say, think, or write this, but I kinda miss school. Crazy, right?” Chelsea Thomas, a 1st grade teacher at Fairplains Elemantary, heard the same sentiment from one of her students. “I wish we could go back to school,” the student wrote in a message to her teacher, “and I wish everybody else was back with all the teachers.”
Seniors are especially hard hit by the loss of the end of the school year, as this is the end of their last year. Senior year is one of the first big milestones for young adults. Along with getting their driver’s licenses, graduating is a major rite of passage, and this year’s crop of seniors is in imminent danger of losing that event. Yes, some school systems are working to have alternative activities, such as “virtual commencements”, or rescheduling prom and commencement for later in the summer, but those normal end-of-year things are likely going to be so different and too late to be of any emotional satisfaction. Several students from Parkersburg High School expressed not just stress at trying to finish school remotely, but also sorrow for the loss of these important lasts.
Cyan Poling, a senior at Parkersburg High School is struggling with how the loss of school has complicated her preparation for college. “Personally, I have been extremely stressed,” she said. “I am still trying to get stuff together for college, along with trying to balance the school work I have been given.” But she also worries about the long-term ramifications of the disease and resulting quarantine. “Plus, I just start to get stressed out and anxious about if this whole Corona thing will go away and my life can go back to normal or if it will take two years like some scientists are predicting.” Like many, she longs for the things she’s missing. “I just want to have my life back to normal and hopefully experience milestones that I have been waiting a very long time for like graduation, my senior trip to Washington DC with my best friend to go to a concert, and my final prom.”
I always felt like I could handle school work on my own but I realize that I need a strict schedule that in-person classes give me.
Another PHS senior, Emily Rexroad, is struggling to adjust to distance learning. “Online schooling is much harder than I thought it would be. I always felt like I could handle school work on my own but I realize that I need a strict schedule that in-person classes give me.” She is also realizing that she misses another element of the classroom setting. “It also helps when I have in-person classes because hearing my teacher verbally explain assignments and be there to easily answer questions is very important to me.” The quarantine has taken a different kind of toll on her as well. “Emotionally, I feel drained,” she said. “I need a busy lifestyle surrounded by people to keep pushing forward and get things done. This quarantine has taken a major toll on my mental health.” On a more positive note, though, Emily feels the situation has been beneficial in that, “I am improving on my ability to manage my tasks.” Though she would rather learn it in a less stressful way, she believes this has helped her learn her strengths and weaknesses as she prepares to leave for college.
Like teachers, students have had to learn to do school in a new way. Granted, many may have been somewhat ahead of the game in that online classes, even on the high school level, have become more and more an integral part of schooling. But those online classes were designed from the start using a distance learning paradigm. To switch, almost literally overnight, most of the way through the year from face-to-face to distance learning is, to say the least, disruptive. Beyond all that is the abrupt loss of their main form of socialization, adding stress to an already demanding juncture in the school year. Young people are already immersed in a vulnerable stage in their lives emotionally and psychologically, especially those in their senior years. As a result, they may be even more susceptible to suffering mental and emotional turmoil. But, like everyone, students are trying to make the best of the situation. And, contrary to the stereotype we have of students, most wish schools would re-open. Their parents would probably agree.