Reading and Writing Our Way Forward
As the country adjusts to the "new normal" with COVID-19, we've gotten better at this whole social distancing thing. Spectrum News recently reported that Florida, among many other states, has required online learning modules for students of all ages, with some class lectures going as long as forty minutes (Turco). Of course, we can all appreciate the efforts that schools are making to keep youth engaged while also preventing the virus from spreading and infecting more people. Teachers have gotten very creative with their tactics for getting the attention of students. For example, a recent USA Today article spotlighted a teacher named Kalpana Sharma who has taken her lessons to live TV. This is to provide opportunities for students without internet at home to view the class materials.
Without a doubt, the way schools have adapted to our new normal is impressive. The way teachers are using technology is a step in the right direction. Inwood Academy is an excellent example of schools adapting quickly and evolving based on how students respond. We began our online learning phase almost immediately, while many schools in other states took weeks to put something together for kids. Many teachers have sent out surveys to figure out how kids are adjusting and what we need from them. My advice to teachers everywhere is commonsense and straightforward: remember that what is happening right now is not "normal" and many students are facing new challenges with less support. Though I find it easier to concentrate by myself at home, distance learning does not necessarily mean more free time for everyone. As I think about my friends, I realize that we are all reacting to these changes differently. But we all agree that it can be overwhelming to balance house chores, schoolwork, and life in general. Teachers must think carefully about the amount of work being assigned. Sometimes teachers forget that teenagers have real responsibilities outside of homework.
Through conversations with friends in other schools and my cousins in other states, I've realized that some teachers are merely continuing the plans they had before COVID-19 struck. This will not work for a variety of reasons, including a lack of in-person support and independent learning challenges. All schools across the country should be making adjustments based on the mental health of students. Many of my peers are now caring for sick relatives, exposing themselves through new jobs to make ends meet, or babysitting siblings while parents go to work.
I guess my point is that there is no "new normal." There exist only "new" challenges for teenagers to overcome. As we learn to balance the different needs of schools and students, we must remember that health comes first. Don't forget that the best learning happens when students are happy and healthy. Being a teenager is already hard. Shout out to my teachers who try to incorporate my feedback when making new assignments. I'll miss you when I graduate soon!