High schoolers experiencing psychological pros and cons of virtual learning

COVID-19 has brought many changes to the Burke community, not least of which has been holding classes virtually, and students have faced many conflicting emotions such as stress and grief. After a makeshift online spring trimester, there was some hope that school could be in-person this fall, but there is no telling how long the pandemic will last, and school will be completely virtual until at least November.

Lucy Kernan-Schloss, Burke’s School Counselor, said she knew going in that the spring and summer have been hard on the student body, but also said that Burke’s administration put in a lot of work to create a fall schedule that would allow students to access support as easily as possible. She acknowledged that new students, students who struggle with organizational skills, and those who have lost loved ones (to coronavirus or other causes) are under particular amounts of stress. And the recent nationwide protests on various pressing social justice and racial equality issues have added another layer. Kernan-Schloss that there are benefits to the pandemic along with the extreme challenges, like how students are learning to adapt to what life throws at them, and she added that the staff have done everything they can to make themselves available to students who want to talk. 

Furthermore, Burke invited the Wendt Center, an organization that specializes in helping teens, children, and adults through grief, to speak with every grade and offer support about grief during the pandemic. The administration and teachers came up with a unique one-time solution: a semester system with only a few classes a day as opposed to the usual five. Mondays are now used for community events and office hours instead of regular class time. So what are students’ impressions of online learning a month into the school year?

Oz Robinson ‘24 said that the switch to online learning has generally reduced stress. “I  haven’t been stressed that often, but it can happen if the workload looks a little heavy on certain days,” he said.  Robinson also said that the reduced homework load generally saves stress, but that it can be tedious sometimes. Despite the initial switch to online learning in the spring of last year, he says that this fall has been significantly less stressful in comparison to when Burke first made the decision to go virtual. “This fall has been a lot less stressful than last year. The shift to online learning didn’t help, especially last trimester,” he explained. He added that he thinks the teachers have acclimated well to a virtual environment.

Another added stress for juniors and seniors is the college process, which is also now happening online. Not being able to visit campuses is an issue for some, but Sigita Puskorius ‘21 feels that the process has been easy for her, saying she had more time to work on her applications. 

She is overall not as stressed or pressured, though she does miss seeing her friends and family in-person. Robinson, in contrast, has found that keeping in touch with his friends and family is easy and feels good in general.

Puskorius also said that her stress levels have decreased with online learning. She came into the fall confused about the schedule and how school would work but quickly settled into a routine. She said that she was expecting to be busy, but that she has not gotten the anticipated amount of work and has frequently been bored. However, Purksorius also praised her teachers, saying, “I feel like they take the time to figure out what works for us to do and how to show everything to us.”

Editor’s Note: Burke recently announced a revised reopening plan at a second round of community Town Halls.