Dear Diary–Student Reflections on School during COVID

Dear Diary–Student Reflections on School during COVID

On March 13, 2020, English Teacher Leticia Harshman asked her high school students to write a “Dear Diary” entry on the one year Anniversary of their school’s closing because of COVID.  Here is a selection of thoughts from the students. It is hard to believe the three-year anniversary of the school shutdown is approaching. If you know students who would like to share their experiences over the past three years, please tell them to log into the scholarpractitionernexus.com and add a post. 

 

Dear Diary by Amanda M.

 

Looking back a year ago, I never would have imagined this is how life would be. When we got the announcement last March that we would be out of school for two weeks I never would have thought it would turn into months. I remember thinking this was something that would just go by and be over after the two weeks. Then hearing that we will not go back to school for the rest of the year, I was shocked. I did not know too much about COVID-19. I never realized how dangerous it was.

 

After doing school online for a couple weeks, we then went to a full lockdown. Everything was closed, and no one could leave their house other than to go to the grocery store.

Fast forward a year…here we are. It has gotten a little better, because we can leave our houses and go out. School has also opened back up. We still must wear masks everywhere and maintain social distancing. I am curious to see when all of this will be over, and everybody can go back to their normal lives.

COVID-19 has ruined a lot of things for me, I am just hoping it does not ruin my senior year next year.

 

Dear Diary by Abby M

My sophomore year never turned out to be what I expected. The week leading up to Friday March 13th 2020, students were excited and eager to hopefully hear our principal call an unexpected two weeks of no school. Within the blink of an eye, it was all gone. March 13th 2020 and coronavirus was all anyone could talk about. Schools across the country were getting shut down, and people were in lockdown, little did we know, we soon would be, too.

 

After getting the announcement after the 11th period on that normal Friday, students were shocked but happy about the break we would get. I remember the “pre-spring weather” in the air that day. It was chilly but nice to know that we could start wearing spring clothes. Walking out of school on that Friday after the announcement, felt like a movie. I remember walking out to the parking lot with my two friends and we were joking about how it could be the last time walking the school halls for a while. Turns out, we were right. Soon just those two short weeks turned into a month followed by another month, and then our whole school year was wiped away.

 

Looking back, I feel like that spring semester of 2020 was such an unrealistic time that it went too fast to comprehend. I do not think that it was till this current year that we all are looking back at where we were a year ago. The change of our lives. Who would have ever thought that two weeks of “break” would turn into a whole year?

 

If I could go back in time and tell myself to cherish that last week of “normal” school, I would. I doubt any of us at this time last year could have imagined what life would change into, but here we are. Thinking back to that last week of school is such a blur. I remember joking around with friends in the library; talking about how funny it would be if school closed.  Meanwhile, we did not believe it would happen. The little things in life are what we value the most and holding onto those last school memories is something that I will never forget. Even if that last week of school was a blur for me, looking back, I remember how happy we all were. I wish I could just go back and tell myself to take it all in and hold onto those memories because the memories are all we have.

Flash forward to spring semester of my junior year, and I am in shock. That I will be a senior the next time I see everyone at school is crazy to think. Those people I knew my sophomore year have changed and so have I. I think we can all admit that this past year has been a struggle and coming up on the “one year anniversary of COVID-19” makes times feel even crazier.

 

Dear Diary by Hayden C.

 

It is unbelievable to think that one year ago we were getting the announcement that we would be out for two weeks.  We all know how that turned out.  Two weeks turned into a month; then a month turned into the end of the school year. Then this year came around and so many adaptations had to and still must be made.

 

I cannot tell whether this whole experience feels longer or shorter than a year.  It feels like just yesterday I was in the middle school. My family and many other families around the world have been torn apart by this virus.  People, including myself have lost loved ones and those that we care deeply about.  Over one year, over 500,000 lives have been lost due to the virus.  This number is awful and cannot be forgotten.

 

As the vaccine has started to roll out, we have begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that is unfortunately still a long way away. Our learning has been affected greatly throughout this whole year and everything has been thrown off track.  I feel especially bad for the classes of 2020 and 2021 and what they had and still must go through.  Usually, graduation is a time of celebration and happiness that signifies you are moving on to a new stage in your life.

 

 

Dear Diary by Allie K

 

On March 13, 2020, all day I was waiting to hear that announcement come through the PA system. All anyone could talk about that Friday was the future of this virus and what would be in store for the rest of the year. I can say confidently that no one knew COVID-19 would progress into a worldwide, statewide, and countywide issue. We were all skeptics. Everyone acted and pretended to know what was going to happen, but in reality, no one could have foreseen those crazy events after that day.

 

I remember being in my English class, watching and reading August Wilson’s Fences, while both my teachers at the time were reassuring us that we would, in fact, be back in class on Monday. Spoiler alert; we were not. I was laughing knowing it would not be the case and thinking we would be out of school for at least two weeks. Spoiler alert; wrong again. Then my last period of the day came. I was in my Social Studies class in the library, wishing that school would be cancelled so that I would not have to take the SATs that Saturday morning. Time flew by and our principal’s voice came through the loudspeaker announcing that we were going to have two weeks off school. I was relieved and was already planning my vacation. But then a week went by. No im-person school until April. Then April came, and the district planned to go back in May. Then May came and there was no in-person school for the rest of the year.

 

Dear Diary by Emma K

 

I can still remember the day our principal came on the announcements and told us we were getting two weeks off. I was in  metalcraft class, finishing up my earring project. There was a lot of speculation about whether school would shut down for two weeks and the only thing I felt then was excitement about a two week break.

 

I wish I could go back and tell myself to enjoy that last day of normal life. I wore a gray dress to school that day because I thought it would be the last time I would see my classmates for a while. Looking back, I have mixed feelings about wearing that dress. It felt almost like an omen that I would not go back to school and that was my “last day” outfit.

 

After spending a year in isolation and online school, I find myself romanticizing that first lockdown. It really felt like we were all experiencing COVID-19 together and the time we spent at home was time to catch up on sleep and work on our mental health. I was so happy during that time and as it led into summer because I did not have to worry about school or work or grades. I went on walks every day and read books and made whipped coffee because it was a trend on Tok-tok. I do not think I had ever been in a better mental state than I was during those months, despite the horrible state of the world around me.

 

Nearly a year later, and my mental health has never been in a worse state. A full year of staying home and online school has been the most exhausting and mentally draining experience. School is the one place where I am reminded of what life used to be like, and it makes me feel lonelier than I ever was while stuck at home. As a junior, the expectations of getting good grades to get into a good college have been stifling, especially since learning and school has become so difficult for me.

 

I often find myself saying that if I can just make it to spring, the good vibes and freedom that I felt during

that time will return. Which is crazy because that was a time when the whole world was struggling. As we near the anniversary date of the last day of normal life, I hope that the new version of myself I have grown into can find the same happiness that I felt around this time last year.

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Mallory McDonald
Mallory McDonald
4 months ago

All I can say is wow. These diary entries really give teachers an insight as to what students were feeling when everything shut down, and how they are feeling a year later. I couldn’t help but also reflect on what I felt like as a sophomore in college when everything stopped. These entries also show how important school is to students, even if they don’t want to truly admit it. Schools provide students with stability and a safe place to learn and grow.

Topic
Future Teacher Reflection
Maria Piantanida
Admin
4 months ago

Mallory, I’m glad you found the student reflections interesting and useful. You’re right that so many students realized that maybe it wasn’t so bad to be in school–at least they could be with their friends. Others have commented that being in person allowed them to ask questions and get immediate answers rather than having to wait for an email reply. One of the things I’ve found encouraging is the way teachers have found creative ways to remain connected using technology. Still, there’s no substitute for in-person learning within a supportive and intellectually stimulating community. I’d love to hear more about your experience. Also, check back next week when we’ll have some new posts with teacher experiences. I hope your studies are going well. Stay in touch.

Marilyn Llewellyn
Marilyn Llewellyn
4 months ago

Mallory, I really appreciate your comments and insights. I would really like to hear more about your challenges and learning when as you say “as a sophomore in college when everything stopped.” What was that time like for you? How are things now? What did you learn/are continuing to learn?

Sarah W.
Sarah W.
4 months ago

Dear Diary by Sarah W.
I remember the day the school told us we had to stay home and quarantine for two weeks. It was the last semester of my senior year of high school. My friends and I walked out at the end of the school day joking with our teachers saying “bye see you at graduation.” Little did I know, I actually wouldn’t see them until graduation. It was just supposed to be a nice two-week spring break with some online class before things went back to normal. Well those two weeks are still happening.
Things are so much better than they were two years ago, but we are still feeling the affects of Covid today. I keep thinking, “when will things go back to normal?” and then I think “is this the new normal?”
I graduated high school and started college 1,000 miles away from home during Covid times. Freshman year of college was chaos. At all times, there was a threat that we could shut down and be sent home. Thankfully, my college campus did everything they could to keep us on campus and make it as normal as they could.
School and education has been a whirlwind. It’s been a mix of online, hybrid, and in person. It has taken a while to adjust to it, but I now I think most people got it down. However, is hard to focus on my studies when another lockdown is looming right around the corner.
Covid-19 has made us learn how to handle the unexpected. We are more resilient than I ever realized. We have been working so hard to make things normal again and although there have been set backs, I hope and pray that someday soon Covid will not be as much a threat as it is and was in the past.

Topic
Covid Times
Lindsey
Lindsey
4 months ago

I couldn’t help but to notice the growth that these students had over the year that they were stuck at home. Most students mention in their letters that at first they thought this was just going to be a fun two week break, but then it quickly turned into something else. You can see how the students were impacted while learning from home and how they just want things to go back to normal.

Maria Piantanida
Admin
4 months ago
Reply to  Lindsey

You’re observation about the students’ growth is very astute. That shift from “this is fun” to “this is hard,” was so significant. I hope that the experience has helped them to realize how resilient and strong they can be. I hope that deeper lesson about themselves will help them as they pursue their education and goals. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond.

Chelsea Connor
Chelsea Connor
4 months ago

Reading these diary entries made me realize how important it is to build connections with our students in and out of the classroom. As a future educator, I will do my best to learn and stay on trend with new technological resources and strategies to use to help my students understand the material. I believe that face-to-face instruction is important, but we saw firsthand how helpful technology could be to stay connected with our students in today’s world. Even in college, I feel online classes can be stressful and draining, but having teachers who support and guide you in the right direction can relieve some of the stress of taking online courses. I am happy that I had the chance to read these diary entries and see how some students felt during this time. I can not imagine what it must have been like not ever taking an online class before and then suddenly having all your classes online. This is a big change for most students, and it is our job as teachers to help smooth the transition.

Topic
Future Teacher Reflection
Maria Piantanida
Admin
4 months ago
Reply to  Chelsea Connor

Chelsea, I read this commet after responding to your post on the roller coaster. One of the things I continue to ponder is how to integrate the power of on-lline learning with in-person instruction. I hope that future teachers like you will have better insights into this issue since you will have experienced both types of learning. Having grown up “old school,” I had a hard time adjusting to teaching on-line the first time aaround. I got better the second time, but I’ve been blown away by the way some teachers have tapped into the various features of Zoom meetings and other platforms to enrich their instruction. As I said in my other comment, please continue to share your own insights into this hybrid world.

Emily Konarzewski
Emily Konarzewski
4 months ago

It is really interesting to be able to read these students’ entries. It hits close to my heart because I was a senior in high school when covid-19 closed everything down, and it is still shocks me that it has been so long since it first shut down. I remember how hectic it was, and I could only imagine the stress that the teachers were under. I remember realizing how much I took school for granted, and how much I enjoyed being in school. I think Covid-19 really changed the perspectives of students, teachers, and even parents when it comes to education.

Maria Piantanida
Admin
4 months ago

Emily, Thanks for posting your comment. If you have a little time, would you be willing to say how the experience of your senior year in high school affected your entry into college? It seems to me that transition was very different for those whose senior year was virtual and that we need to better understand how that is affecting your approach to post-secondary learning. Maria

Sister Marie Thérèse
Sister Marie Thérèse
4 months ago

One thought that I have had throughout the pandemic, as well as through reading these reflections, is the importance of community and helping students to learn how to take care of themselves. In one of the reflections, a student stated that in the initial months of the pandemic she was able to get more rest, go for walks, read, and other recreational activities that were rejuvenating for her, but eventually the isolation that the shut-down caused became very unhealthy for her. Many teachers that I know are beginning to schedule intentional time in their curriculum to teach their students how to grow in self-awareness and how to meet these self-care needs in difficult situations. I think that this is a positive way of moving forward to help students heal from the difficult and many traumatic experiences that they have had these past two years.

Topic
Future Teacher Reflection
Maria Piantanida
Admin
4 months ago

Sister Marie Therese, What a great point to underscore. I keep thinking about what lessons we need to carry forward into a post-pandemic world. The example of the teacher who is building in time to teach self-awareness and self-care needs is just such a worthwhile change in practice. Wouldn’t it be nice that instead of loading high school students down with backpacks bulging with heavy books and huge assignments, we suggested (at least occasionally) just go home and relax tonight. I wonder what students might say the next morning. I hope you stay in touch and continue to share your thoughts. Maria

Emily Maciejewski
Emily Maciejewski
4 months ago

Wow I remember being in high school as a senior during this time and I remember feeling the exact same way. When looking back on where I was and where I am now I cannot imagine covid not being in my life. As I move through college and learn through the impact of covid it is hard to see how my future teaching career will be and if covid will still be having an impact by that time. I feel even though covid took so much it has also made me reflect on how I wish to be a teacher during these hard times. I wish to be the person making the students feel like their lives are just slightly more normal and take their minds off of what it going on. It has been a major thing I can appreciate my professors doing for me right now. This blog really brought out how much education in all grades and ages has effected each and ever person.

Maria Piantanida
Admin
4 months ago

Emily, As I mentioned in my post to Emily K above, I believe it is important for your generation of teachers to share the insights you bring to teaching because of that unusual transition from virtual senior year to in -person or perhaps hybrid freshman year in college. It would be wonderful if both you and Emily K would write even a short description of what that transition was like and how it might influence your work as a teacher. Please stay connected and continue with your insightful relflections.

Sophia Tyrrell
Sophia Tyrrell
4 months ago

I am in wow of how vulnerable her students are being. I know what they are feeling and I sympathize with them because it happened to me my freshman year of college. This shows just how important school is to the student no matter how much they say they hate it. School is apart of their life that distracts them from what ever is going on. It was at first something everyone wanted but then it became isolation and kids are not allowed to be who they are. School is so important to them and teachers are trying as hard as they can but in person school is better for the students to thrive. Thank you sharing and allowing your students to share their stories.

Topic
Future teacher insight
Anna Hass
Anna Hass
4 months ago

It is so sad and heartbreaking to hear how these students’ school experiences and lives have been so deeply impacted as a result of covid. While it is so hard to hear these stories, it is helpful to me as a future teacher to have insight as to the specific challenges and issues that students are facing and may continue to face as this pandemic continues so that I can help them get through it. It is hard to hear about the mental issues that students are facing. My hope is to help these students in as many areas as I can and provide support to help them get through this. I believe my job, as a future educator, is to help these students face these challenges and develop a positive and healthy mindset. Teachers and school systems can continue to strive to help these students and guide them throughout these challenges.

Ryan Ighnat
Ryan Ighnat
4 months ago

The thing that really strikes me about these diary entries is the common theme of unexpectedness. The pandemic was such a spiral for all of these students to go through. They had their lives, relationships, and academic careers swept out from under them, and each student has a unique take on just how that effected their lives. Where once some students looked forward to the time off, many slowly came to dread the world as it unfolded around them. More than one mentioned that the student body (including themselves and their peers) were by now different people. School-age is such an important time in everyone’s life, and it has been irrevocably damaged and diminished by the pandemic. I would like to point out two specific examples of some particularly insightful commentary. First, Emma K. had the maturity to acknowledge the impact that all of this had on her mental health. This is an important issue, and I’m very happy that she has the ability to think metacognitively about herself and her place in this situation. Secondly, Hayden C.’s comment on not knowing whether this whole ordeal felt longer or shorter than a year also spoke to me strongly. When the procedures and social lives of a student body are interrupted, it has a way of debasing one’s entire life experience. Again, it all goes back to life being given over to lost time and diminished relationships. Personally, I look forward to the end of this whole situation, but I fear the long term effects it will have on the younger people who have had their formative years taken away. Still, being able to read these acute, intelligent reflections gives me a bit of hope that many will at least be able to cope with it on some level and work through all of the cascading problems as they present themselves.

Sarah S
Sarah S
4 months ago

Reading these entries reminded me of my own experiences regarding the covid shutdown. I vividly remember the lacrosse practice we didn’t know would be our last, where my coach asked “so do you guys think we’ll close down?” Everyone said no, we didn’t believe it. Little did I know that would be the last time I picked up a stick. I know so many students had tough experiences, and it’s so interesting to look back and see how similar they all were. I can only imagine how difficult the abrupt transition was for educators as well. Teachers quickly had to become familiar with many forms of foreign technology, and lost one of the most fulfilling aspects of their job, seeing the students.
Though incredibly difficult, I believe there has been no better time to be a student in education. We’ve had to learn the ins and outs of “zoom”, “flipgrid” and countless other platforms. We’ve learned the importance of technology, and how to utilize it alongside actual educators, making us all the more prepared to enter the field. With all the inconsistencies regarding the improvement of the covid situation, it’s unclear how the future of education will look, but I know I’ll be ready. I’ll keep how I felt as a student during the pandemic in close mind when I have a classroom of my own, and do everything I can to make sure my students feel connected, supported, and confident in their learning, pandemic or not.

Renee Antonelli
Renee Antonelli
4 months ago

I loved reading this post and hearing about the struggles that all have gone through by being put online and “shut down”. It is nice to know and hear that others went through a struggle too, and how students thought it would be a break from school, but quickly learning/understanding how they were not allowed to go back to school. It helps others see and know they were not alone when the year of online school took place, it is refreshing to hear the thoughts of others. This post was really nice to hear after all of the struggles that online schooling had caused to not only students but teachers too!

Samantha Cohen
Samantha Cohen
4 months ago

It is crazy to read these diaries and see just what an impact COVID-19 has had on high school students and college students. Reading these made me think about my freshman year of college when we went home for spring break, to later find out 2 weeks later that we would not be going back. Something that stuck out to me in these diaries was, “If I could go back in time and tell myself to cherish that last week of “normal” school, I would.” This really is something that I have heard from many students/ friends that they wish they could go back and cherish more of the time they got that year. It helps to focus on reality, to be thankful for what we have in life, and not take it for granted.

Topic
Class Reflection
Maria Piantanida
Admin
4 months ago

Samantha, Renee, Sarah, Ryan, Anna, and Sophia, Thanks for reading the students reflections with so much empathy. Your sensitivity to their experiences will contribute greatly to your own effectiveness as teachers. Assuming that the pandemic is one example of how unexpected events can disrupt one’s normal routines, what have you learned about your own resilience? The world of education is constantly in flux, so having the confidence to assess the new conditions and make adjustments are crutical to a feeling of success and competence. Please stay connected with each other and with the Scholar-Practitioner Nexus as your move forward in your studies and careers. Maria