Online school during Covid: a student/mentor learns to balance

Jazelle Colato, 8, a Durham third grader, sits in on one of her online learning classes. According to its statistics, Durham Public Schools has more than 31,000 students enrolled in 53 schools. (Staff photo by Samantha Martinez)

Life in this pandemic has not been easy for any of us.

Some people have lost their jobs, lost family members, lost their homes and have struggled greatly.

Many other people are just stuck at home watching the world change.

Meanwhile, one hardship I have faced during this pandemic has been dealing with online school.

Since the pandemic has grown very quickly, my school system, along with numerous others, decided not to have in-person learning this year. Instead we are having online school so we can all stay home and protect our health.

Online school is not as easy as it sounds. My family has experienced difficulties with juggling and balancing our schedules while trying to meet the challenges of online schooling and learning.

            Online school has been a struggle for not only me, but also for my siblings and younger family relatives as well.

My little brother is a 6-year-old first grader, and my niece is an 8-year-old third grader. As both an aunt and a sister, I have noticed how online school and the pandemic have affected them. With them not being as adept with the technology as are high school students, it has been harder for them to focus and understand in this new way of learning to which they have to adjust.

All kids learn differently; some learn best by hands-on in-person engagement. Others can learn by more traditional methods. But in my experience as a babysitter, I’ve noticed younger kids are very energetic and not used to sitting down for hours staring at a computer screen. Also, parents fortunate enough to still have to work can’t afford to take the time to sit with their kids all day to help them understand and figure out math problems.

            When parents are usually not around, it can be hard for teachers to control and help the kids learn and listen. Also, the students may have a hard time staying awake during the classes since they’re in a comfortable home setting. Before Covid-19, when I’d come home from school I would relax — and that’s probably what most kids are used to doing. This factor could cause some kids to be lazy and lose interest in school. Other kids may get distracted by TVs or their electronics.

Here’s another issue with learning online: All of these distractions have translated into a point where students are expected to complete assignments for grades without actually having learned anything.

 It feels as if students aren’t learning anything because they’re all just trying to meet the many deadlines placed upon them. 

            My experience in online high school being has been a very stressful and a difficult way of learning. I have had to balance my school schedule with my niece and my younger brother’s schedule, along with having to make sure they’re back on the computer in time for their next class. I also have to make sure that on their breaks they use that time with either finishing classwork or using that free time to get things taken care of so that while they’re in class they can focus.

I also have to stay on top of my own school work and classes, a challenge which can become daunting when I have to multitask. If you’re someone who has to balance your schedule with younger relatives, it isn’t easy at all. But on a positive note, I’d say you can absolutely get through it with time and patience.

I’ve learned that as long as I balance both schedules, a skill that can help young people as they get older, it will become easier for me to meet all my deadlines.

            This terrible pandemic has not been easy for anyone. But looking back in history, I see that many people have gone through hard times before — hard times that they thought they couldn’t face or triumph over.

Like many other Durham high school students, I am facing the challenges of online learning. It takes everything we can do to try and stay sane through it all.