More important than ever we hear students’ voices…

What students say about remote learning...

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With school buildings closed until the end of the academic year in nearly all states, it is more important than ever that educators and policymakers understand how remote learning is working for students.

Earlier this week, I published an article in The Grio urging adults to center the needs of students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of students from across the state of Delaware where they shared their thoughts about education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students were candid and courageous. If you missed it, you can watch our live stream of the event.

Here are some of the takeaways….

Students are finding the flexibility and unscheduled time remote learning presents to be refreshing.
“This time has given me a lot of time to think about how I was just going through the motions with school and so this has really allowed me to take control of my learning.”

“For one of my classes for the first two meetings it was just me and the teacher and that was it, because nobody else could connect at exactly ten o’clock. And If the teacher could have just moved the class thirty minutes later, five other kids could connect. I feel like teacher flexibility on the time can have a lot of influence on whether the kids do or don’t connect.”

Students’ mental health and overall well-being warrant more attention during this crisis.
“Keeping up with work as someone who struggles with mental health.. it’s a very hard dynamic to deal with. I know a lot of people even those who don’t struggle with mental health are having issues now…..I believe that it’s low-key being swept under the rug a little bit and nobody is…you know…really talking about people with mental health and how they are doing right now or resources for them.”

“Tomorrow my parents are going to go back to work. Thankfully, they found a job but that means I am going to have to take care of my brothers more and help them out, be on top of their work, and make sure they are fed and like showering and like all these other things too on top of everything that I have to do so that’s a little bit stressful to think about.”

“I have a lot of nieces that are staying with me and I have to take care of my grandma. I have to help around, I have to cook, and that takes up a lot of my time.”

Some students feel they are getting a lot of work with little instructional support.
“It’s just a lot of work…the teachers are literally just giving us work and saying, “Here. Learn it. The teachers they don’t really teach us. They don’t really have any Zoom conferences….The only thing that they use to teach us is “office hours”….It’s just a lot of work and I kinda hate it.”

“I feel like a lot of my teachers are over assigning work to compensate for the fact that we aren’t doing formal learning….I think it’s a little harder to learn right now because you do have to teach yourself.”

Students are thirsting for more interaction and engagement in their classes.
“People don’t even show their faces in the Zoom meetings…and nobody talks unless the teacher pushes them to talk because she’ll ask a question and nobody will answer…. unless she calls your name nobody says anything. For the one class, my theater class, we do talk because the teacher takes five or ten minutes before we start the zoom call and everybody says how their week has been and that’s a time where we actually interact.”

“They’re giving us multiple resources so we can stay on track for the AP exams. All that is helpful but it would be a lot better if I had a true one-on-one conversation with the teacher or if I didn’t understand something talk to them. That would be a lot better for me.

Students want their school leaders to listen to them and create opportunities for them to connect with peers.
“I just think it is sad that our school isn’t having any meetings for any of the clubs.”

“This [student voice event] is really showing us that we need to keep students at the table. The top people are looking to students for advice and that should be going on all the time.”

At a time when, nationally, 42 percent of teens feel more lonely than usual, DelawareCAN’s Youth Advocacy Council is providing critical opportunities for teens to connect and collaborate with their peers. We also are conducting a high school student survey!
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Atnre Alleyne is the founder and Executive Director of the DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now and the co-founder of TeenSHARP, a college access organization. He blogs at www.fiercelyurgent.com and www.parentingfree.com and is based in Wilmington, Delaware.