By: Michelle Montanez
On March 12, GISD students’ worlds were turned upside down as school began closing to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since the closure of schools in the Spring semester and into Summer, the number of coronavirus cases have reached alarmingly high rates, with the highest recorded number of new cases in Texas in one day reaching 22,276 on September 21.
With these discouraging numbers continuing, teens’ prospects of a normal year have been diminished, and the unexpected changes could be difficult to accommodate to.
Surveys by YoungMinds have revealed that 83% of young students agree that the pandemic has worsened their pre-existing mental health conditions, mainly due to schools closing, loss of routine, and restrictions on social connections. A study done by JAMA Network showed that depression and anxiety rates within students have also gone up since the pandemic began. Before COVID, many students reported that their own difficulties with mental health interfere with their studies. Now that school guidelines and procedures have changed, the new learning environments can be difficult to adapt to. Students may feel panicked, or pressured to learn as quickly or efficiently as they did in previous school years.
For the 2020-21 school year, GISD students and families were given the opportunity to choose whether they wanted to attend face-to-face or virtually, using Canvas to connect to their classes and submit assignments.
“It’s definitely hard to focus at home,” sophomore Mariana Flores said. “It’s confusing because students and staff who aren’t used to technology, like me, have a hard time trying to learn the classes and how to use technology.”When school was first closed last year, students had assignments through Google Classroom, but didn’t attend class virtually or face-to-face. It was a new experience for everyone involved, and teachers had to modify their lesson plans to adjust to new protocols. Asynchronous learning, which doesn’t require real-time interaction, lasted from March 23, 2020 through May 21, 2020.
“Back in March, I definitely didn’t have motivation,” Flores said. “I was too overwhelmed by COVID-19, I always felt like it was the end of the world and thought to myself ‘what’s the point of trying.’”
Sophomore Emely Chavez describes similar sentiments.
“I’m a virtual learner right now and it is more difficult,” Chavez said. “Back in March, In all my classes I couldn’t focus at all with the dramatic changes of face-to-face and online.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has acknowledged that the coronavirus disease can be stressful for people, and that there could be overwhelmingly strong emotions in both adults and children. They have recommended some healthy ways to cope, such as taking breaks from listening to news stories, taking care of your body, trying activities you enjoy, and connecting with others about how you are feeling.
“I usually take breaks to go get something to eat and play video games,” Chavez said. “I do have fun and it’s great to connect with friends when you cannot see them.”
Children’s Campus, a developmental program that takes social, emotional, and cognitive growth into consideration regarding education, states that social interaction helps students to develop their sense of self, and start to learn what the outside world may expect from them. Setting boundaries and problem solving skills come from socializing and interacting with others. North Garland offers many options for students to be involved, to feel connected and be interactive. These options include sports, various clubs, band, dance groups, choir, orchestra, theatre, and other forms of socialization.
“I am involved in marching band, and it makes me so happy,” Flores said. “It sucks that it’s all different this year because of COVID-19, but what makes me feel better is that we at least still have somewhat of a marching season.”
If you or someone you know have been dealing with overwhelming emotions due to the stress and lack of social connection, there are places that can be contacted to help such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Life Crisis Chat, and the Disaster Distress Helpline. There are also many activities you can pick up and distractions that can make these situations less stressful. It is important to build resilience and find ways to cope with recent events in efficient, healthy ways.
“I have motivation to do school work when it’s something I am really interested in,” Flores said. “When I am working on subjects I am not fond of, I usually force myself to study. I motivate myself by reminding myself what I am working for, which is to be a doctor.”