Story by Kahlen Miao
Illustration by David Sohn
At the beginning of this month, I opened my report card to a mixture of shock and disappointment. I had ended the last semester with three B’s. Transitioning into my sophomore year was more difficult than I’d like to admit.
I know for a fact that those three B’s on my report card — while objectively good grades — would not have been there in the absence of a pandemic. This situation’s tangible academic outcomes cannot simply be chalked up to a natural progression of difficulty between grades.
While the concept of online learning theoretically seems easier for all — with less oversight for academic integrity, the assumed comfort of one’s living space, and close proximity to at-home resources — it isn’t. The structure of distance learning from the last few months of my freshman year was what I had expected the current school model to be like: easier than in person.
Admittedly, that relaxed spring workload was unrealistic and far from ideal given that students need to learn curriculum through interaction with their peers and teachers. But in restructuring distance learning for this school year, SPUSD has created a system with little regard for circumstances inflicted by the pandemic.
These ideas create a toxic mindset for students, where they believe that their academic performance should be as good or better than their performance in in-person classes, which is not the case. Students should not be forced into believing that they must be comfortable with online learning simply because it is “easier than in-person learning” when the two models are uncomparable.
Students have already expressed their need for more mental health support from the district to no avail. Because students have been misled into a false sense of security by the school’s promise of adapting, it feels like students are being forced policies and concepts that only work in person.
Sitting at home and staring at a screen makes class feel too informal, to the point where it’s difficult to take it seriously. Isolation forbids many from interacting with their friends, a significant aspect of mental health. There can also be stress from toxic household and strained parental relationships, in which one cannot escape. The setting of Zoom classes without proper adjustments has made an attempt of normality feel nothing but abnormal.
While it is impressive that so many students have been able to adapt to the pandemic lifestyle, this adaptive ability should not be expected from all. And oftentimes, it is the students themselves that maintain the expectation. The assumption that online classes are easier than in-person classes alienates students who aren’t able to adapt as well to distance learning, glorifying the way others have adapted to the situation, damaging students’ ability to learn.
It’s difficult to forgive myself. I am disappointed to see those three B’s in my report card. But, I need to acknowledge that these expectations I have set for myself are unrealistic given the circumstances. As students, we need to lower our expectations and not hold ourselves to our regular standards because this is not a regular situation, and it would be ridiculous to compare the two.