Throughout the country, citizens have been forced to put a halt to their normal schedules and begin social distancing in their homes as an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Large gatherings have been suspended entirely and all people can do is wait until life resumes its regular course. Among the millions that have been affected, high school students have been hit hard with the abrupt cancellation of the rest of their school year. As an alternative measure, Gwinnett County has taken to Digital Learning Days (DLD), a setting in which school work is posted online by teachers and electronically completed by students. As everyone stays at home and practices social distancing, it is important for students to finish their work and prepare to take AP Exams, as well as, finals all from their homes.
High school sophomore Jabari Birch shares similar views to those of other students. “DLD hasn’t affected my mental health in any bad way except that I have been much more laid back when I usually like to get up and do things. I have been finding ways to work out and do relaxing things to help me focus more during the day and not get too bored with school being digital.” Birch responded to the questions of how he copes with being inside for the majority of the month and completing his schoolwork online responsibly, “I took for granted the moments that I had with my friends and this just makes me realize that I’m not going to be with my friends forever and to cherish every moment with them, as well as, the opportunities I receive.” Many students like Birch feel separated from their friends and are anxiously waiting for the social distancing measures to be lifted.
Another student, high school junior Elizabeth Bergwall, describes herself as an extroverted person and that social distancing is what is affecting her mental health more than digital learning. “It is hard to be away from the people that I love. DLD assignments are giving me something to focus on so I’m not bored constantly, but I miss seeing my friends every day and interacting with my teachers. One benefit of DLD is that I can learn at my own pace. I miss the social interaction of face to face school but I like the individual learning of DLD.” It has been known that each individual student thinks differently about digital learning days yet a majority of students just miss the social interactions of hanging out with their friends and seeing them every day.
Students are not the only ones that feel the pressures of social distancing and digital learning days. Teachers are also trying to get used to the drastic changes that come with moving lessons online. Mrs. Jessica Copeland is a teacher at North Gwinnett High School. She has recently become a mother and was on maternity leave when school was canceled for the remainder of the year. When asked how digital learning days have affected her ability to keep up with the activities of her students, as well as, take care of her baby, she responded accordingly, “DLDs have made it easier for me to care for my son because I can create my own schedule, but at the same time, it’s more difficult for me to care for my students since I’m not seeing them face-to-face. I’m sad I couldn’t say goodbye to my students and coworkers. As for AP Exams, I do believe that there will be some leniency when it comes to the rigor of this year’s exams compared to prior years; however, I feel leniency is necessary because we’re all navigating through something that’s completely unfamiliar to us. As educators, we’re learning new ways to assess students. We’re all adapting to this new way of teaching and assessing, a shift in expectations and standards is inevitable.” Mrs. Copeland will resume teaching her class virtually on May 1.
Despite all the uncertainty regarding COVID-19, it can be said confidently that Gwinnett County students and teachers are continuing to work hard and diligently to complete the school year they began.
— By Anoshka Ramkumar, Intern – North Gwinnett High School