By Natalie Zagorski
The devastating reality of the Covid pandemic on student’s motivation levels and academics can be seen as concerning to many. In a survey of students from Batavia High School, 79 percent of students reported that they feel they’ve learned less during the pandemic and 21 percent reported that they’ve learned more. Not only has learning been altered for these students but also sports, clubs, extracurriculars, and the environment in school has changed. One student from each grade level at BHS was surveyed and every BHS student interviewed reported unique concerns they’ve had during the pandemic. These struggles all came down to a common theme: motivation levels and academics have not been what they used to be.
During this time of uncertainty, many students have kept hope in the fact that education will get them far in life and tried their hardest to still make it a priority. In his household growing up, Fikayo Afolarin, a junior at BHS was told that education “takes it as priorities one and two.” There was a lot of emphasis on the importance of education, and he was encouraged to treat it that way.
Although many students are still trying their best during hybrid or completely remote learning at this time, more obstacles have been put in the way than a normal year. With accountable learning patterns now changing to unpredictable for many students, there’s still truth in what BHS senior Emma Myers said when she stated that “You can still learn things if you have a good attitude.”
With the structure of a school day swept out from under the feet of many teenagers, their motivation and “drive” has gone with it. The disruption of a typical school day has left students feeling displaced. Now students struggle to get into the rhythm of a daily routine due to the constant switching of learning locations. There’s much more responsibility placed on these teens to put structure into their lives instead of others putting it in.
BHS sophomore Bridget Kosky stated that “going every other day disrupts my routine.” All four BHS students who were interviewed reported that they feel more productive at school and tend to participate more while they’re in person. This participation level and amount of “hands-on” learning that students do make a difference in how much material they retain.
Alli Olsen, a freshman, feels that it’s “easier to get help when it’s face to face.” These BHS students have informed the community that with an isolated learning environment, students feel awkward engaging in Google meets or asking for help. Myers spoke the obvious for many students when she said “It’s more natural in class.”
Many student habits have been degrading due to hybrid or all online learning and so has their education. A student’s environment can greatly affect how much they get done in a day as well as how engaged they are in class. Even just the location they’re at in their house can make a large difference. Olsen stated that “If I get up and get ready I feel more productive than if I were to just roll out of bed.” All students interviewed confirmed that the days they did their schoolwork in bed they got less done and were less engaged. “If I’m lying in my bed I know I’m not getting enough work done,” Kosky said. The temptation of having your bed right next to the area you’re doing school work, or being the only place in the house to work can lead to them not being as focused.
Students feel that although they’re keeping their grades the same as before hybrid and online learning started that they are not learning as much. Many students have said that they think teachers are grading easier, giving out more remediation opportunities, and since students can use notes on tests they’re scoring higher. Myers said that during the first semester of online and hybrid learning “last semester I got all A’s but I feel like I don’t deserve them.”
The curriculum has had to be cut down in order to fit this slower-paced style of learning, and less material is being taught. Many students aren’t studying or preparing for tests in the same way because they know that they’ll be able to use their notes when they’re at home. “When half the tests are at home I know I’m not learning as much,” Kosky said. When students are able to take tests at home they don’t have the same “drive” to prepare, knowing that they’re able to use whatever resources they have.
Other students have reported that although their school days are shortened and they have more time to work on homework after school, they’ve been turning assignments in late more because they don’t have that dedicated work time like they did in school to get things done. Not having a dedicated time to get work done leaves all the time management to the individual student. Although BHS has a student support hour from 1:30-2:30, this isn’t enforced as a mandatory time to do schoolwork and many students will use this time to take a break after having Google meets all day before doing their homework. Due to the newness of hybrid and online learning, there’s not yet been an effective way to enforce getting all work done in a timely manner. Just like Myers said, “All the support and structure is gone.”
It’s fair to say that the pandemic has affected everyone in some way, and although all these students are high school students, they’ve felt the impact uniquely. Each grade had something distinct about it that has now felt lost, and each person had something they were looking forward to that is now gone.
For all the freshmen moving into a new and much larger school, the “real” high school experience is something they’ve yet to experience. This is a time for many students to make new friends as they’re moving to a new school with new people but many have not been able to participate in these new things due to activities like school spirit week and after curriculars being canceled. Olsen said that she “is guessing, doesn’t know yet” that high school will be a more social place, but many of these first-time experiences have been taken away from her as well as the whole freshman class.
Although sophomore year might not be the most exciting part of someone’s high school experience, it’s still a year of learning and growing just like the rest of the years. Kosky explains that even with Covid affecting her life, she’s glad it came this year compared to when she was an upperclassman when she said “since I’m not a junior or senior I’m not missing a lot.” Even so, the daily struggles of a high school student can be seen when she expresses how she’s definitely less motivated and sadder overall because she’s not doing anything exciting.
Many people look at junior year of high school as the one full of stress and pressure. This year’s pandemic has added a layer to that stress. Each student is trying to be the best they can to set up their future and make the most of themselves, but with opportunities taken away and uncertainty in the future, many students just have to wait it out.
Junior Fikayo Afolarin expressed his concern about a pending athletic scholarship when he explained that other states have had football seasons and have gotten offers by this time of year already. He’s concerned that with the season in the spring (due to Illinois Covid guidelines), fewer offers and scholarships will be available due to the abnormal time of their season. Throughout the years, he’s put a lot of time and effort into this sport. When reflecting on the experience as a whole he said “some days you get tired but it’s worth it,” Afolarin said.
Seniors have felt the brunt of the blow when it comes to this year’s school year. Seniors have experienced so many “lasts” that they didn’t know was their last time doing, seeing, or experiencing. These little losses add up and make it feel like to this class that they’ve lost the most memorable parts of their senior year. The unexpected twists and turns of Covid remind us all to take advantage of every day and enjoy the things we think are a given because, in fact, they are not.
“On Friday the 13th (junior year) I packed my last school lunch,” Myers said. That feeling of being in a place and never getting to say goodbye or ending with a bang makes seniors feel like they’re missing a large part of their high school experience. “All the momentous occasions that you look forward to are not going to happen and it’s just disappointing,” Myers said. The lack of a senior prom, last football season, a normal social life, and so much more has been swept out from under the feet of this unfortunate class. Their last year of high school is one with only academics and no social aspect. “I don’t think there is anything memorable about this senior year,” Myers said.
All factors contributed, the Covid pandemic has made a large impact on the high school experience for many students. The structure that students would normally look to in order to guide them through this challenging time in their life is now nonexistent. There is hope for the school, state, country, and world to recover from this devastating disease, and now light can be seen at the end of this dark tunnel. Myers put it all in perspective perfectly when she ended her interview by saying “Nothing with the pandemic is certain.”