This op-ed story was produced during the Fall 2020 Youth Voice Workshop.
People said high school was going to go by in a flash, but I didn’t think they meant in a Zoom. Online school has shown me that even overachievers, like myself, can slip through the cracks. At first, I didn’t want to believe that. I had always set high expectations for myself because I was scared of letting the people closest to me down. Everybody kept telling me that my four years of high school were going to go fast, so I shouldn’t waste my time on things that make me happy. Instead, I should be focusing on SAT/ACT prep, applying to colleges and for scholarships, writing essays and becoming a “straight A” student.
This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced my school to close and move to online learning, I struggled to be the best student that everybody expected me to be. I felt unmotivated and unhappy with where I was, emotionally. Tasks that were once easy, like completing homework, participating in clubs, and being organized, are now the hardest tasks to finish. With a lack of motivation to log on to online school, I didn’t feel like I was learning anything new and I procrastinated on my assignments until just before they were due.
Instead of being in a classroom with teachers and students, I was laying in my bed, sleeping through Zoom classes. I hid behind the screen because I didn’t want the teachers to call on me. I didn’t want to show other students that I could slip through the cracks, too.
Does online school change the expectations of your learning? The environment of your bedroom is very different from the environment of your classroom. Sleeping in your bed and waking up to Zoom classes a minute before they start is different than getting up and walking into your school. Eating food during Zoom classes and hiding behind the screen contrasts from talking with your friends at lunch and interacting with other students in person. Staring at the screen for eight or more hours a day, in addition to the hours of finishing your homework after school, can make you feel Zoom fatigue.
The lack of communication between teachers, students and staff can make students scared to ask for the teachers’ support. The transition to online schooling has changed students’ lifestyles and how we approach our learning.
Times are different now. The expectations you and others hold for yourself may not be achieved during distance learning – and that’s okay. Showing up on screen in a place that’s comfortable for you is a way that you can adapt to your environment. Communicating with your support network – your family, teachers, friends, coaches and others that are close to you – can help reset your expectations and realize your full potential. During these difficult times, talking with the people closest to you about what you need can help you become more comfortable and content in approaching online school and other challenges in life.