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New School, New Friends, New Teachers: Pandemic Edition

by Sadie Heald

I am a sixth grader coming to East Side for the first time. I can tell you with total honesty that this is not at all how I pictured my first year of middle school. I was expecting what you hear from books and movies-- bells ringing for the start of classes, a bunch of people coming through the halls at once, having lockers crammed next to each other-- but that isn’t how it is at all. Yes, it is mostly because of COVID-19 that it is very different from my expectations, but I get the feeling that even if it was a normal year, it still would have been different from what I pictured.

It is hard enough adjusting to middle school in a normal year, let alone through Zoom where you can barely hear what your teacher is saying half of the time. Instead of not being able to hear your teacher because you’re sitting too far back, you can’t hear them because your WiFi is going down every 2 seconds. Instead of at the end of every class people pushing and shoving through a small hallway, 11 kids are patiently waiting on the wall trying to stay 6 feet apart-- or even worse than that, waiting in a breakout room looking at a white screen. Instead of having lockers crammed side by side, you are lugging your 200 pound backpack-- that is heavy enough with books, not to mention adding another ten pounds of a computer to it--around from class to class.

I wanted to see how other kids have been feeling about this whole thing, so I sent out a Google Form to 70 sixth graders to see how they are feeling about remote and blended learning.

Interesting Survey Findings (Statistics)

When asked, "On a scale of 1-5, how are you feeling about remote learning,” 52.9% (more than half) said that it is okay, and 31.4% said that they kind of liked it. Quite honestly, this surprised me. I was expecting a lot more people to say it was pretty bad or that they hated it, but instead most people didn’t think it was all that bad. The third most number of people (7.1%) said that remote learning is amazing, and that they wish this is how every year was. 4.3% said that it is pretty bad, and another 4.3% said that it was awful.

Different Perspectives

People had a lot of very different feelings about this year. I can see that it has been harder for some more than others. Some are liking this year because it’s a little bit easier and they don’t really need to go outside and they can go to school in pajamas. George said that this year meets his expectations of hard work, and that he wishes this could be how it was every year. Adrian said that he likes this year because he was expecting to have to be outside a lot, but because of COVID, he can stay home. Jasper said that he was expecting this year to be boring but has been surprised because he is having fun, although he wishes that we could be in the building. To my surprise, quite a few sixth graders are really liking this year.

There are also some kids who just plain hate this year. Sophia said, “2020 is like one of those movies that doesn’t get rated any stars. That’s how painful it is.” Niko answered, “This year is the spawn of satan, the stubbed toe of the earth. 2021 is gonna be great ‘cause of all the Marvel, anime and Star Wars coming out but this year, it was just disaster after disaster after disaster, it won the medal for worst year.” Lily said, “I honestly didn't know what to expect, but I definitely didn't expect this. I guess I just expected it to be normal and like any other school year. This year didn't meet my expectations at all, with the dumpster fire that 2020 has been, but it hasn't been all bad. This year has just felt weird and surreal. I really don't know any other way to describe it.” I agree with all of these quotes, for me, 2020 was terrible.

However, the majority of students felt “meh” about this year. One sixth grader named Harry said, “This year is sort of sucky. I mean, there is COVID going around and I'm sort of scared that when it is all done school will get harder. Also it has really brought my family together and that's good but we need it to end. I'm scared for my friends, family and the people who need the vaccine.” Kirah said, “I wasn't really expecting anything to be honest. I was just nervous about starting a new school, saying I had been in the same for basically all my life. I wouldn't say I did or I didn't. But I just generally don't like school, so that might be why. I feel great. It isn't too hard but it also isn't too easy.” Jazzlyn Bennett said, “I feel annoyed but also happy. I'm annoyed because I would like to be in school but I'm happy because I’m having fun.” Zach said, “I thought it would be really great but then COVID came and ruined all of my hopes, it's still a great school I just can't say it would be the same if we were in person. No it's just hard to have a really great time when you're staring at a screen for 4 hours a day. It's really good, taking into account the fact that we're in a global pandemic.” I can definitely understand where these people are coming from. I agree with Harry it has also brought my family together and I have to remember to be grateful for that.

Meeting new people through Zoom

Throughout this pandemic, it’s not only school that has been affected. Everyone misses seeing, and interacting with their friends. One sixth grader named Viviana said, “I’m feeling pretty sad that we can’t be as close to friends as last year, and not be able to hug and stuff.” A different sixth grader said something similar. Dakota said, “I feel happy that I won’t get sick but I'm sad that I won't be able to hug my friends.” A lot of kids are missing social interactions with other kids, and we can really see that here. I also really miss being able to invade my friends personal space.

Kids miss seeing their old friends, but what is it like trying to meet new people and make friends online? Email has definitely been a big way of getting to know people. Through email you can chat with each other and even get their numbers for texting. One sixth grader from Tompkins Square Middle school, named Annabel Bluemenfeld said, “It was pretty easy for me to make friends because I could use g-chats (Google Chats) with other kids in my class, and then I could get to know some people and see if any other people had the same interests as me.”

Discord has also been a really popular way of kids getting to know each other. They can just make a username so that they don’t have to use or give their number, and kids can chat with each other there. Me and my friends used to use Zoom chats as a way to talk and we had Zoom meetings twice a day so we wouldn’t lose contact with each other.

Final Thoughts

All in all, we can see that kids have very mixed feelings about remote learning. This has had many different effects on kids, and they all have different feelings about it. We saw that some kids are loving this year because it’s relaxed, and the work isn’t quite so hard, and some kids have double the stress because they don’t have teachers physically with them.

I am honestly surprised that some kids are liking this year, because I thought everyone would miss being in the room with their teachers, peers, and friends, but I learned that that isn’t true. I learned that some kids actually like this year better than other years. Writing this article was a learning experience for me, because I got to see how everyone was feeling, and I got to see that not everyone is feeling the same way that I do, and it’s interesting to see other points of view.

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