Note: The following blog post was written by one of our newest interns, Anna, a student at Glenbrook North High School. The views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of State Representative Jonathan Carroll or our office. Shortly after hiring her, it was made clear to us that she is a talented writer. We seek to encourage and develop our interns innate talents, and thought that periodic blog posts would be a good means of accomplishing this. We believe it is important to submit this essay without any edits from the Representative or his staff, in order to authentically express what some students may have been feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent switch to E-Learning. The blog post begins below.
Hello 57th District!
First things first, since this is my first blog entry, let me introduce myself. My name is Anna and I am one of the newest interns with State Representative Jonathan Carroll. I am in my sophomore year at Glenbrook North High School and I have been attending school online for 347 days now. Yes, 347 days.
As all of you know, Covid-19 has taken a major toll on our lives. Obviously as a measure to keep us students safe from the virus, GBN adopted a virtual learning environment starting last March, continuing through the first semester. Recently, we have adjusted to a fully in-person classroom schedule but I made the decision to continue learning remotely. My parents and friends were very surprised by my decision, especially since I was practically in tears when we were told we would have to be doing e-learning at the start of this year. It was definitely a hard decision to make, but I believe it was what’s best for my family and me. Unfortunately, many of my classmates do not take the virus seriously (evident from the constant mask-less house parties that pop-up on my Instagram feed) and I was very nervous to be surrounded by tens or possibly hundreds of my peers who don’t consider how their recklessness may affect others. Despite the numerous measures that District 225 has implemented to stop the spread (weekly Covid testing, mask requirements, social distancing, etc.) I still chose to stay home.
However, as I’ve realized recently, my anxious feelings about returning to school are not exactly out of the norm: since second semester began, only about 30% of District 225 students have elected to attend school in person. Everyday, I see stories in the media and statements from politicians about how students need to return to school and that students actually WANT to return to school. But I’ve noticed that no one seems to ask actual students what they think. If we allegedly want to return to school so bad, why have 70% of us chosen not to?
In my opinion, there are several reasons why so many students aren’t returning to school (besides the obvious Covid anxiety I mentioned before). First, the truth that no one seems to say out loud is that school is simply easier online. At least for many of us it is. Of course, many find it harder to focus while online due to the many distractions all around us. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. The simple fact is, it’s WAY easier to do well on tests and assignments online than in person. Many students keep open tabs of notes on their laptops to flip back to, use their calculator on a non-calculator math quiz, or even use the internet to search for answers to test questions. The sad thing is, many students feel that if they go back to school they will be at a major disadvantage compared to those who stay home. Some of my very close friends have said to me directly that they will not be returning to school simply because they don’t want their grades to plummet in comparison to the virtual learners. In my opinion, this almost certainly boils down to the extreme emphasis that high schools place on grades over personal wellbeing.
Secondly, so many students have serious trouble with the social aspect of in-person school. While watching CNN the other day, I watched an anchor mention over and over that students need to be in-person because they need social interaction with others. Of course, this is true for some. Many of my classmates were so excited to get back to school because of how much they missed their friends or even just the small day-to-day interactions with others in the hallway between classes. Some students have poor home lives and were excited to get to escape that for multiple hours five days a week again. However, for many it’s exactly the opposite. Lots of students are bullied, harassed, or just plain lonely while at school during the day. For me personally, while I am never really bullied at Glenbrook North, have plenty of friends to talk to, and get good grades, attending school has always been something I absolutely dreaded. I would often miss school purely because of anxiety about going and when I was there all I wanted was to go home. For me, online learning has allowed me to be more productive and more relaxed. Yes, I still talk to and see my friends, but school does not have to be that time to socialize for everyone.
In truth, that’s just the way that some of us are. Some students are extroverted and excel when they get to be physically at school, and some are introverted and do their best work online. People have told me that it’s not healthy to stay home, that being in-person is good for me, and I couldn’t possibly enjoy it more online. I strongly disagree with this sentiment and I believe many students do as well. This pandemic has honestly made me reevaluate the way we learn; maybe online learning should always be an option. Every high school student is so different and the belief that every single one of us should be learning in-person or every single one of us should be learning online is frankly ridiculous.
Until next time,