Spartan Spear & Riordan Roundtable
This is the fourth in a series of editorial collaborations between ICA Cristo Rey's Spartan Press and Riordan High School's Crusader. This edition's topic is students' transition back into in-person learning.
By Leah Martinez '22
There is no doubt that the pandemic and online schooling have taken a significant toll on students’ well-being. Back in March of 2020, students’ academic and social lives were put on an abrupt pause and students had to adapt to the new reality of virtual classes, scarce social interactions,
shared workspaces with relatives, and protection from the COVID-19 virus. Now in 2021, schools have returned to in-person learning, and school has transformed into a different environment than it once was. Virtual learning has taught us that students’ mental health should have been a priority long before the pandemic. It’s important for students to take care of themselves so they can have the energy and motivation to keep going. This responsibility should largely fall into the hands of schools to teach students to create a work-life balance.
During virtual learning, the expected academic pressures students typically experience were slightly lowered and mental health became the main concern of parents and schools. Since students didn’t have jam-packed schedules, there was more time to explore new hobbies. So of course, getting back into the groove of waking up early, commuting to school, sitting through classes, and completing copious amounts of homework again would cause a shock to students’ mental and physical health. To help students ease back into in-person learning, schools should be conscious about how much work is assigned and bring back mental health days for students to recharge.
Schools should allow students to have a space to express their opinions about in-person learning and actually take into consideration what students say so adjustments can be made. Personally, communicating with friends about feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or frustrated can be comforting because I know that I am not alone in feeling a certain way. Fortunately, the great majority of students respect and abide by the physical adjustments in school. While having to wear a mask for long periods of time can get uncomfortable and muffle your voice, there is a common understanding that such precautions are there to protect everyone’s health. Although being back on campus can be tough and chaotic at times, moments like laughing with friends, talking with your favorite teacher, stopping by your favorite breakfast spot before class, being back on the field, and participating in club activities all create that much-needed balance between enjoying your time at school and fulfilling your responsibilities.
The pandemic has drastically changed and disrupted our lives, and therefore the routines that worked for us before may not work for us now, and that is OK. To regain this balance students can find a new system that will help them rediscover stability between their responsibilities. This could be creating new habits like going to sleep an hour earlier, prioritizing your time, limiting phone usage, or dedicating time for self-care. But there is only so much students can do, and schools also have to do their part to make this transition from online learning to in-person schooling as smooth as possible.
By Grayson Solomon '22
Being back at school, let me tell you, is one of the best feelings I’ve felt in the last year and a half. Although I returned to school for a month in May last school year, it didn’t have that same feeling as it did before, but being back now has relit that spark that has been dormant for the entire pandemic. Being back in the physical classroom, seeing my friends in person, attending dances, rallies, games, and just seeing the whole student body is so nice and refreshing after 15 months of looking at tiny Zoom boxes on a computer screen.
Even though it’s exciting to see everyone again and get back into somewhat of a “new normal,” it hasn’t been all fun and games. Since we were forced into distance learning for about a year, adjusting back into in-person school was and still is a bit of a hassle. I was so used to waking up five to 10 minutes before my Zoom class that I basically forgot how to wake up on time. Waking up and having to actually get up and get dressed in uniform rather than sitting up in bed and turning off a laptop was, and still kind of is, difficult.
Even though more people are starting to return to in-person clubs and extracurriculars, some aren’t. We actually have to be present during meetings, and not just turn off our cameras and walk away. Not saying I always did this, but I know a lot of us did and in a way, still do. Also, trying to balance extracurricular activities and school work is a bit hectic since now we actually meet in person rather than on Zoom. During the pandemic, deadlines were pretty much whenever so I could focus more on other activities. Like I mentioned, we actually have to be present and in person during meetings. This takes time out of our day, which puts more emphasis on extracurricular activities, which keeps me at school longer and leaves me tired and unmotivated to finish any class and homework I have.
It’s currently October, and even though my grades visually look good, I know my work could be better and I can be better with my deadlines and turning my work in on time. Trying to find that balance we had prior to COVID between friends, clubs and school work is tough and I’m still trying to figure it all out. But, it’s getting better and better as the year progresses.
My advice for anyone trying to find this balance again: stay motivated and give yourself a break. We are all getting adjusted to coming back in person fully, so it’s ok to be tired and fatigued at times, just don’t let it take over. Give yourself breaks from everything, turn off your phone and get off the PlayStation. Trust me, it’ll boost your motivation to do important stuff like college apps or past due work. We’ve been through so much and we have so much more to do, and if we’ve made it this far, we can get through so much more. Hang in there, we got this.