Finding a “New Normal” During Unprecedented Times

With California schools set to be closed through the end of the academic year, many students and their families have had to deal with sudden upheaval to their everyday lives. Most schools have transitioned to online and virtual learning with varying levels of difficulty, but, even in the best cases, this change has proved to be difficult to handle.

For schools who are able to safely and reliably move to digital learning, many teachers are without materials they require to teach, or are unable to properly go through lessons over video calls (on software which they may be unfamiliar with). For example, some math teachers can not effectively show their work to students without a document camera or whiteboard to share with their students. For others, or in districts where not every student has easy access to digital resources, education is stuck in limbo. Though some districts are able to loan out devices such as Chromebooks for those who may need them, this is not necessarily a viable long term solution.

With these complications to education, students are struggling to keep up. Without proper school and with a loss of structure, maintaining motivation is extremely difficult for many, especially students already struggling prior to self isolation. Events that students worked towards – their end of the year parties, their school dances, their proms and graduations – have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely, making school feel even more hopeless. These issues are only exacerbated by difficulties on other sides of the education process – if a teacher is unsure of what they are doing or unable to properly teach under lock-down conditions (for example, not being able to conduct experiments or easily show their work), then it is near impossible for a student to learn properly. Not to mention with younger students, like those in elementary levels, the transition to online learning is not something easy or seamless. Younger students might not have the experience with online learning tools a middle or high school student might, and a large amount of teaching might fall to older siblings or parents as a result, who might be ill-equipped or not have the time to teach the younger students while also working or getting their own education.

Some schools are increasing workloads, or claiming that students should be able to complete more work than before with the influx of free-time provided by quarantine. In households where students are working, or must watch their siblings, or have responsibilities, this is simply not true. Even if a student is without extreme responsibilities or a job, adding a sudden increase to schoolwork is a counterproductive solution to difficulties with education. Add to this the recent stress with AP Testing for high school students (or, more specifically, the extremely poor system through which AP tests are administered) and school is stressful enough without piles of additional work due to quarantine. 

In general, the lock-down has added new unforeseen stressors to the education process. For students, and by extension their families, the difficulties of continuing learning while in self isolation are difficult to navigate and continue to be challenging even as lock-down has gone on over the past two months. Students and their families are finding ways around these struggles, but it is far from easy and even farther from normal.

This article was written by Jessica Reiman, a recent graduate of Silver Creek High School in San Jose. Jessica has been involved with PTA since she was in kindergarten, most recently with Silver Creek High School PTSA and Sixth District PTA. Her mother, Nha-Nghi Nguyen, serves on the California State PTA Board of Managers in the Family Engagement Commission.