Education Matters: Episode 148 - Student Voices and COVID-19
This week, K-12 students across North Carolina are going back to school. Our public school students are beginning school under what have become known as Plans B and C -- and in most districts, that is either a hybrid or a fully remote learning schedule. As of this taping, students in 60 school districts will begin in a fully remote learning setting. Many school districts have shared that the fall, even if it is conducted all online, will not be like March through June of this past school year, when we were just starting out with remote learning. District and school leaders and educators have had a chance to reflect on the spring, engage in professional learning, and plan for what their students need. While this year is certainly different than any other start of a school year that we can remember, it is very important for us to ensure that student voice is considered and heard through the implementation of our learning environments. During this show, we will do just that - hear directly from students across our state. These students will help us understand what it is like to be a K-12 student during COVID-19 -- and how we can best support them this year.
Welcome to education matters presented by the Public School Forum of North Carolina. I'm your host, Maryanne Wolf. This week, K through 12 students across North Carolina are going back to school. Our public school students are beginning school under what have become known as Plans B and C, and in most districts, that is either a hybrid or a fully remote learning schedule. As of this taping, students and 60 school districts will begin in a fully remote learning setting. Many school districts have shared that the fall, even if it is conducted all online, will not be like March through June of this past school year, when we were just starting out with remote learning. District's and school leaders and educators have had a chance to reflect on the spring, engage in professional learning and plan for what their students need. While this year is certainly different than any other start of a school year that we can remember, it is very important for us to ensure that student voice is considered and heard throughout the implementation of our learning environments. During the show, we will do just that hear directly from students across our state, thes students will help us understand what it is like to be a K through 12 student during Cove in 19 and how we can best support them this year. We have had opportunities to hear from principals, superintendents, teachers and parents about the biggest challenges and even hopes for the coming school year. But today we want to hear straight from the students. It is our pleasure to have with us today. Kayla Keaton, a senior at Middle Creek High School in Wake County, and Grace Greenberg, a sophomore. It's South Central High School in Pitt County. Kayla and Grace. Welcome. Thank you, Thank you. I'd love to start out by asking each of you How does it feel to be starting a new school year in the midst of Cove in 19 and maybe tell us a little bit about what your school year will be? Like? Grace, it feels pretty surreal. It doesn't really. It's pretty crazy. Just all the changes we've had to make. We would never have expected this back in March, and my school district has chosen to dio a mixture of face to face learning and virtual learning. Now, Kayla, how do you feel starting your senior year in the midst of coverted. Yes. Um, I honestly, I'm trying to question what school even is anymore because, you know, I have a combination of senioritis. I haven't been getting up at 7 25 since March, and so is like, what do I even I'd still hard getting back into that process That all especially since I will be at home and I'm gonna want to be comfortable. I'm going toe want to sleep in Since I don't have to drive anywhere now, so that's gonna be a little bit of a harder transition. Wake County has provided a few different options for all students. You can choose to be in a virtual academy where you stay at home regardless of district decisions for an entire semester or the entire year, out with voice. Or you can choose to kind of go with the flow with the county that both of you started to talk about. How different this does feel and grace. I wonder if there are strategies that you either used in the spring or you plan to use this. You go back to school, that we'll make schools successful, but also positive for you. I've been focusing on staying the good and just being positive and just looking forward to the future and remembering that this is a crazy time and we're all gonna look back. Remember it. So I want to remember it fondly. Thank you. And Kayla, you mentioned this. You know, how do you get out of this rhythm of kind of being at home and having a lot of flexibility? But now school is going to start. Have you thought about some strategies that you might use both in terms of your schoolwork but also connecting with others? One of the things that my school is doing in terms of their new daily schedule is there in a 90 block period for high schoolers. It's 50 minutes of instruction, live instruction with her teachers and then 40 minutes of independent or group work. And I am really planning to use a independent and group work to the maximum during remote learning. We didn't have an exact, like a very rigid daily schedule like that. It was kind of like if teachers wanted to do live teaching, they could If they didn't, they could just assign videos in a sign classwork and you do it by the end of the week. And so that really allowed me to just kind of use that extra free time to focus on things that I just like things that I like to do that I usually don't do. During the school year, I was cooking new foods. I was saying to me Music I was watching new Netflix shows and that was really energizing for me because I didn't feel so crammed, especially with extracurriculars kind of falling off. Towards the end of the year, I had a whole lot more time. But this year, since, everything is definitely going to be more structured. I'm really just planning to do all my work during the day during the regular 7 25 to 18 as much as I can. So I can still kind of enjoy that feeling of being at home and doing things that I just like to do for myself. Thank you so much and grace, I wonder. Kayla mentioned kind of the shift away from so many extracurriculars that maybe many of you have experienced before. Have you been able grazed to engage in extracurricular activities or do you think you'll be able to once the school year begins? So not we have. I run cross country and also slim, but that's in the winner. So I've just been running off on my own. My coach has given us, like calendars of stuff we can do to get ready because hopefully he will be able to start our season September and said, Crossed countries, one of the less contact sports. They've kind of put it on a list where we hopefully we'll get to start just cause there's a lot less risk factors, no contact, you can run far apart. It's like That s so as you're thinking about teachers and families that are trying to support students and also engage students, Um, you know, you two both have plans for how you're going to engage. But I wonder, do you have any advice for educators or families and how they can make sure they are connecting with students and supporting their students? Um, Kayla, I think one of the big things that when you asked students to do an assignment to make it an assignment that is, at the very least, something they wouldn't walk toe, learn or a medium where they wouldn't want to engage with it, especially since it's going to be a virtual. You have a lot of options. We can look at music videos and look at that as a text. We can look at documentaries. Look at that as a text. We can look at a specific network show that is school appropriate. Look at that as a text and do things like that, especially since Brigham want to do those things. Anyways, we're in the comfort of our homes, anything social media related, that type of assignment. I think that would be it would at the very least, take us out of the mindset of Oh, I'm at home and I still have to do schoolwork. It would be way easier to do something like that, words in a format that we're used to seeing online or on our devices anyways, instead of like trying to read like a textbook online or something that's not going to be very encouraging and motivating. If I'm at home and I'm reading a textbook on my computer, anything, um, with visuals and audio, that would be perfect honestly. So I do hear this idea of relevance, right? What feels relevant. But also, teachers may have some space to be creative in ways they maybe didn't feel like they could in a face to face costume. Or maybe they're you know, this gives them a different opportunity. Grace, what about you? Do you have advice for families or for teachers and how they can support and engage students for teachers? I agree with Kayla, my, um, health teacher. Actually, we did a really fun project over virtual learning where we had to take pictures and do different journals. And that was really fun. And I would also say for teachers, reach out to all the students and check on us and have conversations with us. Because I know for me I really miss interaction with my teachers. I really appreciate you you both. The advice you have is well taken. Eso i This is kind of a short question, but I'm just curious to hear, um, what are you worried about for the upcoming year? I'll start with you, Grace. I'm a little bit worried about keeping a mask all day because I had to do my driver's I driving in the car and that was two hours with a mask on, and it was kind of hard, but I think we'll make it. It's just hards and picture being in a vast for seven hours. Yes. Kayla, what are you worried about? Um, one of the things that I am worried about is that as a senior, I will not get to do any of my senior things, Especially if I decide to go to Virtual Academy for the second semester. I have not decided that yet because I'm waiting or my district's decision on everything. And if there were even be room for me in my in person, um, environment anymore if I decided to go back in late. But things like Senior Picnic Day, things like prom. I did not go this year. Um, a regular graduation, those air all kind of open the air now, like, are they even safe any more? Is it going to be completely different? Like about whatever I've been seeing on TV and in movies or in pictures and stories like, is that gonna be completely different thing? Now? I'm just a little worried that, like, have been in school this time and looking forward to things and they may not happen exactly the way that I pictured it anymore. It will be a little bit different. We're gonna remain hopeful, right? That maybe will be able to have ways to do some of those things. So in our last 30 seconds, I want you each to give advice to other students. You were feeling worried or not Really Sure what this year is gonna look like. What advice do you have? And Greece, I'll start with you. Oh, that you're not alone. Everyone in the world is going through this, and sometimes I feel like it's just me who's getting my high school experience taken away. But its everyone so remember that you're not alone. Thank you. And Kayla. One of the things I would say is to do not feel pressured to give everything the same energy as you would have last year. This is a completely different, like his brand new territory. It is fine if you feel the need to maybe drop in extracurricular and he still want to be involved in your school. But you do not want to overload yourself, and you also don't want to be in front of a computer all day. Um, and the next thing that I have to say is definitely protect yourself. I want to protect your friends. You also want to protect your teachers. This It has to be a group effort, and you're part of the group. So you have to play your part. Well, thank you both so much. You've offered such great advice, but also just insight into what our students are feeling and thinking. And I just hope you both have very productive and, um, a good school year, and I hope we can hear back from you on how that goes. So thank you so much. And after the break, we'll actually be talking to two more middle school students. Thank you so much. Education matters has brought to you each week in part by town bank serving, others enriching lives. Welcome back to education matters. We're pleased to be joined by Caitlin Decker, 1/7 grader at Murphy Middle School, out in the very most western part of our state and Cherokee County, and Clark Henry, an eighth grader at Waddell Language Academy and Charlotte Mecklenburg schools. Welcome to both of you. I'm wondering, How does it feel to be starting a new year. Eighth grade for you in the midst of Kobe 19. I think I feel pretty confident about me, really staying on top of my work. But I'm definitely worried about how it's gonna roll. So, yes, I'm excited to be able to go back to school from doing all like the remote learning and everything, but at the same time, it is a little bit nerve racking cause, you know, just having to wear a mask and everything and just the unknown. What's going to happen? Um, how many days a week will you be going? What does your schedule look like? We will be going in on Mondays and Tuesdays. So some people going on Mondays and Tuesdays and some on Thursdays and Fridays, based on your last name, the initial of your last name. And then on women's days, everyone will do virtual school. And then on the Naser, you'll be virtual when you think about the next failure. Are there any things that you're worried about is you go into it. I'm just sort of concerned with doing some remote learning because even though I know that's probably a safer and better option for this year. Um, I just feel like when we're doing remote learning, I don't really retain or learn it as well. Like, I think I get the basic understanding of it and what I need to understand and learn. But I feel like I learned it better when I'm actually in a classroom. Yes, yes. I actually wrote down a few things that I'm actually really worried about. Um, and one of the things are keeping us interested. So for me, keeping interest, keeping me personally interested It's very hard to do because I really procrastinate a lot and I get out of it super quick. But I think there's different things that you can make us like. Draw are changing because I knew that last year not a lot of kids would even attended Dunes because they were interested. So I think that definitely keeping me interested in others definitely very interested is a definitely good way, Teoh. You know, grab our ditch it. Yeah. Have you been able to argue? Think you'll be able to participate in extracurricular activities? Either one you used to do or some new ones with school sports? Um, I run track, so that's in the spring. So I haven't really had much to do or don't really know that much about what's going on with the sports like fall sports. But I do know some of my friends are on like the vault. They're practicing privilege ball, and instead of being in the gym and everything they've been doing, just workouts and, like conditioning outside, which I think is what most of the other sports have been doing as well. I actually do not think I will be able to, but if I do, I'm definitely gonna go in for it because anything I can do to, you know, keep myself active is definitely something that I really want to do. But I actually dropped one of my curricular activities and picked up a new one. So I'm hoping that they open up, which is volleyball. I hope that they open up Teoh, you know, having our our same voluble type of feel this year. But if not, I will try at home in practice constantly. Something else you mentioned to me is that at your school you're able to participate in languages, and I know that you've taken both Chinese and German. And I wonder, how does that work? Three. Virtual learning or there's some advantages to it. So there's definitely a lot of advantages because it's definitely shows how much you definitely paid attention in class when we were in in person, because when she once you definitely get onto online, it does get more complex because you're there. You're not the teachers, not there constantly telling you what did you and you have to learn on your own just kind of sad. But, you know, you have to try to do it. Um, German for me was definitely a challenge because it was obviously my second language, and I picked it up in sixth grade. I also mentioned to you earlier that it's a different dialect, so it makes it ah 100 times harder. But I try to keep up with as much as I could, and I think that I don't think there's a lot of advantages for me personally because I didn't pay attention. But there may be for others to be, in fact, struggled a little bit more. Um, so I wonder if you have advice for teachers because you mentioned how important it is to keep you interested when you think about the experience you had. But knowing that teachers have learned a lot over the summer, as have our district and school leaders, what advice do you have for them to really support you and other students? My advice for teachers with this being, like with where I'm going to school, some of it being remote and some being in class? I think when you're doing remote, it's easier to for it to be a lot more boring and just notice, interesting or interactive. So I think my advice for teachers would just be when doing remote, learning to make it as interactive and his phone is you can and to make it as much like in person school. Um, so if you can do like zoom calls or Google meetings or something like that, so it's like you're actually in the classroom. So I think, um, what I was able to do last year with my teachers was to develop interpersonal connection with each of them. And I think this year definitely checking in with our emotional state is definitely very important for me because I think that you having that that, like that just interpersonal collection, like I just said, is definitely very important because if you're just sitting in a zoom, you're like, I really don't know this teacher, but I don't want it. I don't know how to talk to them. I'm like, I'm I'm confused, but you don't want to say anything about it. I definitely was one of those students that would say I'm confused because I think that's very important that I get the concept or I'm just gonna be lost. Another thing that I think is to give us time to get into that virtual group because, well, it's gonna be tough. It's gonna be very tough, especially for eighth grade. It's because we're older and we're turning into that teenager feel, and it's gonna be definitely important for us. Toe get used to it and us to really accept the fact that we're in Corona Bit Corona and were encoded. So I think that's very important as well. Yeah, I've been hearing about a lot of that too well, the other thing is, you feel it seems like you've done a lot of thinking about how you're going to approach this year, and what you're gonna do. You and I wonder if you have advice for students who might be worried who might be thinking, How am I going to keep up? How am I gonna make this also enjoyable eso I love If you would share some advice for other students. Okay, So when you're like speaking of remote learning and not just in class and in person learning, Um, one thing that I would suggest is it's really easy to just procrastinate and just put off doing your work until, like, white later in the day. And then in reality, that just creates more work for you, and it just puts a lot of stress on you if you try to wait till the very end of the day to do it. So my advice would just be to just get your work done, um, and not put it off. And then if you have any calls to join, like zoom meetings or Google and meetings or anything like that, make sure to join them, if you can. Yes. So I think that the best thing I could tell you guys is to keep attending. So I think the more you attend, the more easier the work will get, the more easier you'll get into the groove. I think that a lot of kids were actually very frustrated this year when you in the Charlotte Mecklenburg County, when you figured out that you could either pass or withdraw. So a lot of kids like me would attend every single zoom, or you would even see those kids that will kind of fall back a little bit. So you kind of frustrated cause you're like So I did this all For what reason? So I think just to keep attending it, to know that we're gonna get through this and just to keep on top of your work because I know that was a struggle for a lot of students. So I think that's like the best advice I could give kids. You know, I think many students are nodding their heads right now knowing that you're right. So thank you so much. Madden itself over families. Well, we really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us today, and hopefully we can talk again sometime soon. We're very appreciative that you're with us. Thank you so much. Thank you. Break. Um we will have the final word. Yes, I am always amazed by our students. They consistently remind me of their resilience, creativity and leadership skills. And in those moments, I believe that our state and our country will be OK. As you heard from our students today, they experience a range of emotions, just like we dio when we sit with our visions about this upcoming school year. However, they have also found interesting approaches to solving problems, discovered how to pursue new interest, cared for their families and communities and not given up on what is important to them. August 17th may not include the same back to school photos with our kids climbing onto yellow school bus racing, defined friends at lunch or having practice after school. And it's okay for all of us students, parents and teachers to be sad about these miss moments, however, is our students shared. We're still moving forward and have opportunities to support them. First, we must help them find the positive aspects of their new learning environments. If we focus on what we have lost rather than what we might gain, we may not give our students the space to discover more about themselves and how they learn. Some students may find it easier to connect with the teacher in a remote setting. Others may use the time they used to spend on a particular activity to pursue a club or other interest. Second, we can help students establish a schedule that aligns with the school's expectations and also their home lives. Our Children crave structure. Consider how to go back to a set. Wake up time to help your students build exercise or brain breaks into the day, and to assist students and tapping into office hours with teachers when they need help. This will look different for different families and students, and we need to be kind to ourselves as we figure out how to balance this with family work schedules or different child care situations. Third, ask for the help and support you need for your child or family. If you're a family who is struggling with childcare, access to food or are supporting your students, learning needs reach out. Schools and districts across the state are working with community partners like municipalities. Y M C. A's were boys and girls clubs that are providing child care options This is still a work in progress, but there is a deep understanding of the myriad complications that hybrid or remote learning causes for our families, especially those that are the most vulnerable. Last, our students need us to support their social and emotional learning. In addition to their academics, this may require helping our students to find other students online or suggesting study groups or playtime outside with neighbors. Many districts have supports built in with opportunities to sign up, to talk with school counselors, social workers or other mental health supports. You can make sure that your child knows that you see this as critical to their learning. This year will be different. While we all strive for normalcy, we can help our students and Children make the most of each day. And these unique learning opportunities are Children on Lee get each of these days and whatever great they are in once these minutes are important and will help shape who they are and will become. I am confident that our families and schools will strive to support them each step of the way. Thank you for taking time with us, tow, learn and think about education. That's all for today, and we'll see you next week