A Burden of the Pandemic: Students Out of Focus

Media provided by Gazette Media Staff.

With the spread of  COVID-19, an online learning pandemic was born. School buildings were abandoned and we began to rely heavily on WiFi, and this viral takeover proved almost equally dangerous: impacting physical, mental, and developmental health. The recent past was a blur for both students and teachers; everybody hid behind their screens, slept in, and adjusted to a new normal. Zoom emerged to rescue students, yet, in an ironic twist of fate, the miracle of remote learning may have hindered the education it tried to support. The human brain is not built to learn or interact through screens. So what were the lasting effects of this online learning apocalypse? 

In 2020, the spread of the coronavirus challenged the world and required that a generous amount of time be spent indoors. For many, school work became seemingly insignificant. Motivation for many students was low, and for an arguably good reason; looking out the window to see empty streets and masked faces was not tremendously inspiring. 

MiChelle Carpenter, dean of the class of ‘24, recalled, “Some students said to me, ‘I’m feeling a little fatalistic, what is the point of all of this geometry and history if we’re just going to have global pandemics?’” 

Adam H. ‘24 echoed Ms. Carpenter’s claim. When asked about his homework routine, Adam, who attended school fully remote last year, wrote, “It was hard to motivate myself to do my homework right after school, as it just felt like more school and not homework.”

As a result of remote learning, students’ attentiveness waned within the classroom. According to an EdWeek Research Center survey published in April, “Nearly 4 of 5 teachers think their students’ ability to focus has gotten worse with school-related tasks during the shutdown.”

 Hours of screen time diminished motivation and the ability to focus, and few need a survey to affirm that. Despite tremendous efforts, the transition to online school was anything but smooth; teachers re-thought curriculums, student workload became unmanageable, and parents grew concerned. 

In an interview, Mel Chan, the high school counselor, speculated that “if someone was already struggling with procrastination, the pandemic probably made it worse.” 

Underlying issues of motivation and procrastination were likely brought to the surface with remote learning, adding another layer of difficulty for many. As Grace resumes in-person learning and classes return to their original eighty minute lengths, how will students manage to adapt to this new-new normal? And how will Grace support them in their efforts?