It’s 9:00 am. The TEAM’S meeting pops up. No one has joined. Eager, yet nervous students file in while their teacher welcomes them from a kitchen table. Cameras off. Mics muted. A very different reality students was faced by for the 2020-21 school year.
April 6, 2020, looked very different from the ordinary return from spring break. Online learning is in full effect. COVID-19 is a new nerve-wracking term to everyone. The beginning of a very long three months was off to a start. Those who were used to and enjoyed the learning environment provided by being at school had a shock while adapting to schooling from home.
Students had to navigate through a new platform called Microsoft TEAMS, whilst trying to learn and complete online adapted assignments. As classes went on and lessons progressed, students were now beginning to feel the anxious effects of COVID-19 unknowns and online learning. “It was something I had to get used to and I felt very isolated since I was unable to have regular interaction with my peers. My grades are very important to me and so keeping them in the A average was a bit of a challenge,” said Grade 12 Riverside student Sydney Ilaender. She continued to say,“As a student whose average is above 86%, I was struggling to be at home without my teachers and peers while attempting to maintain good grades; it was nearly impossible.”
Students’ grades declined and they panicked. The lack of social interaction, which students thrive on, took a toll on their mental health. Perfectionism – which in and of itself is also stressful – was out of reach for some while adapting to the changing timelines and assignments. Students who struggled with the “overachieving” mindset found that they had little to no control over what was happening during their learning process. The uncertainty of how tests, assignments, projects, and presentations would be managed was a challenge to overcome. A majority of students who find themselves ordinarily confident and school-driven suddenly found their confidence and A average slipping.
In her October 13, 2020 article Zoom school’s mental health toll on kids from the American Psychological Association, Heather Stringer concluded that: “Research shows that the school environment is critical for fostering academic motivation and social development, and many students rely on schools for mental health care.”
Motivation and procrastination are two large factors that affected student’s mental health during COVID-19. Those who once found themselves motivated and happy to learn were struggling to maintain grades and keep happy with their school progress. Maintaining perfect grades throughout the online experience was nearly impossible. The impossibility caused some students to lose motivation and fall into an upsetting spiral of anxiety and fatigue.
“When I had online class, my work ethic that I had built up throughout the years in high school changed when moving to online learning. I felt unmotivated and easily tired while working on assignments,” said Ben Harke, a Grade 11 Riverside student when asked about how online learning affected his work ethic and motivation. His once inspired and active mind was rapidly decreasing, and procrastination was a large factor in most schoolwork he did.
Dropping grades were also the consequence of online school. The gap of 90%-100% to 70%-90% was significant and caused students to become anxious and overworked while trying to reach their goals.
It was very interesting learning about the effects of COVID-19 on motivated students and how they adapted to online learning during such a difficult time. Perfectionism is a stressful condition for many students and COVID-19 certainly added to that; however, it also forced these very same students to learn how to be flexible and resilient. Qualities that everyone should foster. Students who have the “perfectionist” mindset have become much more conformable to the changing year and have definitely grown as a student and person. Who knows what will come for the following months, but as it stands, online learning still had negative effects on student’s mental health and performance quality whether grades are a factor or not. While the world is still in a pandemic, it is important to understand and be aware of struggles in all students and their mental health.