Treyton SiebersmaSenior, Tualatin High School (Tualatin, OR)

As a senior in high school, the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting social distancing have impacted my life and schooling in a number of ways. Now, rather than teachers giving us lessons verbally and in person, they send us links to news articles and podcasts covering the various topics we need to learn about. All of our assignments are sent and turned in online, and I only get about two assignments a week from most teachers.

For me, learning from home has shed light on many areas of my education as well as on how I learn and get work done. Personally, I’ve found that having a bit more freedom in terms of structure has been beneficial to my overall learning process.

Obviously, everyone is different, but I’ve really responded to being able to take more responsibility for my own education. Rather than being in a setting with constant supervision, students are given the responsibility to do assignments on their own time in a remote learning environment. This has helped me get my work done more efficiently. I tend to procrastinate in my schoolwork, but, during distance learning, I’ve found that I often get assignments done early when the process of completing them is placed mostly into my hands.

However, some of the distance learning that I’ve witnessed has also had its shortcomings. Primarily, I’ve found that, because classes are more self-contained and less interactive to a degree, having certain things explained or fleshed out fully is more challenging. Meeting in a classroom with a teacher in person allowed for a student to engage in different learning styles. Individuals are able to learn visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically in a classroom environment. Distance learning tends to limit how much these different learning styles can be used as, for obvious reasons, interactive communication is tough right now.

While interaction with teachers is limited more in distance learning, technology has proven helpful among the student body. We’re able to maintain communication with one another through phone calls and texts, social media, or even online games. This has helped alleviate some of the issues with formal teacher–student communication as we can discuss assignments and other school-related topics across these platforms.

Of course, our teachers can’t communicate with us in the same way we talk to one another these days, but they’ve been able to take advantage of other websites and platforms that are very useful for distance learning. Google Classroom, Zoom, and Flipgrid are three fantastic platforms that my teachers have used progressively more during social distancing to send assignments and more effectively communicate lessons with students than when school closures first happened.

While teachers have been doing their best to embrace new technology during social distancing to help accommodate other students’ learning styles, the impact of COVID-19 is being felt far beyond the (virtual) classroom. In my district, all sports and extracurricular activities have been canceled. This has left many students disappointed and with little to do. For example, I was a member of Oregon’s Model United Nations (MUN). Our big MUN conference was supposed to take place in April, and I did hours of research and preparation for the event. The conference was canceled, and this event that I’d been looking forward to for months now wasn’t taking place. The cancelation of extracurriculars and events is happening across the country, leading to countless disappointed students.

As for my graduation, “anticlimactic” would be an understatement. Recently, I received a voicemail from a school administrator letting me know that I had graduated and that my diploma would be arriving in the mail. This was disappointing at the time, but my school is already searching for some way to celebrate our graduation online, which will at least give us something to look forward to after a spring seemingly filled with disappointments.

People everywhere are experiencing hardships and disappointments due to the crisis we’re in, and everyone’s life is rapidly changing. However, there is hope that we will be able to come together during these tough times and overcome these challenges. If people are willing to work together, we can overcome any barriers placed before us.