This school year has brought a new way of learning and teaching to Dexter High School; never before have we had a full semester completely virtual. Due to this, a large majority of the Dexter High School community has felt a serious impact on their mental health.
Teachers are pressed to adapt their curriculum, cut their instructional time in half, and attempt to connect to students whom they’ve only seen through a screen. Some teachers are pushing to head back into school as soon as possible due to the damaging effects of virtual learning, while others are more concerned with the safety of the students.
Mrs. Ellen Doss and Mr. Patrick Stolkey teach Honors Humanities together. Since the class is two-class periods long, they see their Humanities students everyday. They've changed the pace of their curriculum tremendously: the class is about a month behind normal.
As a duo, they actively work to limit the amount of class work by using their time on Zoom to teach their lessons. Although the school year has been challenging for the DHS staff, Mrs. Doss has kept a positive attitude.
“I feel like my mental health is good, and I'm enjoying classes, even if we're proceeding at a slower pace," DOSS SAID.
"Obviously it would be preferable to see everyone in person every day . . . if there weren't a pandemic. But there is a pandemic. As such, it would be irresponsible to meet in person. As a community we just have to grow up and accept the reality of the situation instead of hoping for ‘when things get back to normal.’"
"I would definitely prefer to see students' faces all the time, but I will settle for having cameras on for times of discussion/when I ask for them to be on. Even when I ask, do all students go on camera? No. But I still hold out hope.”
Even though many teachers are trying to shorten the workload, many students are feeling more overwhelmed with work than ever before. Students are struggling to stay motivated, and are feeling like they never get to truly relax.
Other teachers have structured their classes so that their students watch pre-recorded lectures after the Zoom class; most of the time the lecture is paired with an assignment. This means that the workload for just one day for the class will be to join the Zoom for 45 minutes, watch a 25-45 minute lecture, take notes, and then also complete homework questions. Along with the work from their other classes, students are finishing their homework at surprisingly late hours.
“IT’S DIFFICULT TO TAKE YOUR DEADLINES SERIOUSLY WHEN THERE’S NO REAL STRUCTURE TO YOUR DAY, AND I FIND MYSELF PROCRASTINATING MORE AND MORE, WHICH IN TURN LEADS TO MORE STRESS AND LESS SLEEP,” SENior DANI SCHULZ said.
In a Squall survey sent to DHS students, about 40% of the 237 students who responded said they felt a negative impact on their mental health due to online learning.
“The thing about online school is that you’re never truly free,” senior Julianne Peters said. “You Zoom during the school day, you do homework, whatever, but you never get to have the division between ‘school’ and ‘home’ which makes it kind of hard to completely relax.”
While a large number of students have negative effects due to online learning, some students are taking this time off from in-person school to, alternatively, help their mental health. Some of these students are spending time with their family or picking up new hobbies.
“With online school I finally have time to go on bike rides, pick flowers, and try out new recipes,” senior John Harm said.
Senior Quentin Hurdle added: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” The pandemic and online school has allowed Hurdle to pursue his interest in music.
“I think online schooling leaves a lot of room to experiment and ‘pop the cork and let the wine run,’” he said.