By Jennifer Liyanage
While reflecting on this journey of Coronavirus confinement, I’ve realized that there are two types of pandemic students. The first type finds anyone or anything to converse with about the difficulties in their lives in order to find some measure of tranquility in a chaotic environment. The second type keeps whatever concerns they have to themselves either as a refusal to accept the pandemic burden or out of hope that it will get better soon.
As a high school senior, it has taken many thoughtful hours to be as calm as I am, even with the idea that everything I’ve been looking forward to in my last year of school has disintegrated. It is certainly hard to be hopeful when missing out on prom, graduation, and so many other milestones.
The experiences I witness in myself and my classmates stand in stark contrast to the middle school students I had the pleasure of interviewing, however. They are both headstrong and hopeful in the face of the pandemic.
Budding middle school adolescents who are forced to learn from home seem almost unbothered by the fact that they are currently only capable of learning digitally. The generation of students who are sixth, seventh, and eighth graders today are oddly different from when I was in middle school. They are innocent, respectful, and positively outgoing, or at least that’s the case at the Granada Hills Charter TK-8 campus.
Some of the students from GHC’s TK-8 Journalism Club have never stepped foot on their school’s campus. Others have had limited places to go because of the campus’ construction. Yet, even without knowing much about their school and how it is changing, they enjoy attending school online, which marvels me the most.
“Most of the people that were sixth-graders last year have been to the physical campus but we haven’t really seen the building because before we went online it was just a pile of dirt. We had class in a big bungalow, but outside our window was a construction site,” seventh-grader Samantha Bencze said.
Perhaps it is the previous lack of an established physical campus that helped them acclimate to online learning so easily. Many even recognize its merits.
“One of the things I like about online learning is that I’m able to be in my own space. As social as I am and as much as I like to be around people, I also like to be in my own work space especially if it’s important. I like it quiet,” seventh-grader Alana Miller said.
Miller wasn’t alone in highlighting the positive aspects of distance learning.
“A good activity that we do in class is a Socratic seminar where it’s kind of like a debate or a discussion. We share our point of view on the topic, like a controversial question, and that’s pretty fun, it’s an activity I like a lot even online,” sixth-grader Mayank Rao said.
“I like that we can go into breakout rooms. We get to have our own private time without having to hear anybody else. If you’re in a real classroom you’re divided up into tables with some groups and you can still hear other people. When you go into a breakout room, though, you can only hear each other and the teacher can still come around and talk to you,” sixth-grader Katie Lee said.
Middle schoolers also seem to appreciate the little things, such as learning a new talent while stuck at home.
“My typing skills have really improved because everything is virtual now so of course I’m typing almost everything we do. I used to have 50 to 60 words per minute but now I have around 80 to 90, so I’m really proud of that,” seventh-grader Alana Cable said.
It’s clear that a lot of the TK-8 students feel comfortable with how distance learning is progressing but they are also easing up to how it’ll someday feel to go back to school in person.
“I’m excited to have that social interaction again because at home the most we can do is FaceTime or text people, and that got old pretty quickly. I’d still be kind of nervous to go back because they still haven’t cleared the vaccine for anyone who’s 16 or under, and I think we’re pretty susceptible to it. Also just having to adjust to that environment once again, after almost a year of being at home, sounds really daunting, but I think it could be fun,” seventh-grader Mayaluna Beckett said.
“I feel kind of nervous to go back because it’s practically skipping an entire year and you have to start off with a new schedule, meet new friends, new people, and new teachers. It’s like having to restart because you haven’t met anyone from the years before,” Lee said.
Despite their anxieties and nerves, it’s incredibly clear how these young students have a positive enthusiasm for learning and looking on the bright side. Their attitude encourages others to have the same positive outlook on even the most difficult ideas like Coronavirus.
“A good thing for me is that school has become less stressful socially. I don’t have to worry about who likes me and who doesn’t or who I’m going to sit with at lunch because I’m at home with my family who’s not really going to judge me for who I am,” Bencze said.