As I write this I am in my first year of 6th form (year 12). Due to the coronavirus pandemic I have had to study and do my schoolwork online. However, because I have my exams next year, my school (alongside other schools) has recently opened for year 10s and year 12s.
Transitioning back to school after lockdown…
Currently, I have had to attend school for three weeks because, as I mentioned previously, I have exams next year. I only have to attend three times a week and it is only for one hour and forty-five minutes. Later in the year, that will change. The Government has said that in September school will fully open again for all students.
The challenges faced by students due to coronavirus
Schooling online for students during this pandemic has been somewhat hard.
Initially, before the government implemented Microsoft teams for online networking/learning and communication, most of the work we had to do was just reading and completing work that was given to us by our teachers. This caused difficulties as it took more time to understand new topics and concepts, due to no direct communication with teachers.
In addition to this, being in lockdown has meant that year 12s have missed many crucial events and have not been able to do activities that will help prepare them for university. For instance, we have missed open days, UCAS conventions and work experience opportunities.
Also, understandably, it is difficult for teachers to give one-to-one university and personal statement advice.
Schools are well-prepared for returning students in terms of physical safety – but could do even more for student mental health.
In terms of safety and hygiene, the school has been very well prepared. The weekly lessons have been beneficial, too.
My school also created ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’. Every Wednesday students were encouraged to send videos and photos of home learning and wellbeing practices. This helped spread positivity. Form tutors also regularly called home to check up on their students, and that was very nice of them.
However, there has not, it seems, been a lot of personal help for students struggling with their mental health and home life.
Perhaps these circumstances will change in September as all students must attend school, not only year 10s and year 12s.
Taking the initiative to adjust to the new normal as a student
In the beginning of lockdown, I struggled with the transition of doing all my classwork and homework online and this was mainly because of my time management and procrastination. In a way, it was mainly because of my boredom.
To combat this, I decided to create a routine at home that mirrored that of my school timetable. This was extremely helpful as I managed to get my work done easier.
Also, I decided to start new hobbies, like learning how to code and learning Spanish. This gave me motivation as it provided me with challenges.
Ways to ease student stress on returning to school
To ease the transition back to school, I would suggest that schools try and help students by creating useful revision resources for the topics that we have missed and topics from earlier in the year. Otherwise, there will not be enough time to recap these topics in the next academic year.
I would also suggest that schools should have at least one counsellor. I know that this is not completely possible, but it would be very helpful as many people have had difficult home lives and some have lost their family members from coronavirus.
Continued student anxiety as we face the unknown…
Thinking about the future is quite daunting as everything seems so surreal right now. In terms of school, nobody really has any clear picture of what will happen with exams and if the syllabus and curriculum will change.
Also, many other students that I have talked to feel very nervous about transitioning back to school. They want to feel a sense of normality once they go back, as for many people school was seen as a ‘safe haven’ from everything else in their lives.
A message of support to other students in the same situation: we’ve come so far
I want to emphasise the importance of taking care of your mental health as that plays a part in your life which also includes academic achievement and progress.
There are many different ways of practicing self-care. For me working out, journaling and praying proved to be personally very helpful and helped reduce my stress significantly. However, there are so many different ways of taking care of your mental wellbeing, and some methods might not work well for you as with other people.
Also, if you are facing extreme difficulties with your mental health, I suggest that you speak to a counsellor or therapist over the phone. The NHS has a page dedicated to the mental health and wellbeing of students which also includes useful resources.
To my fellow students, I would like to say that I am proud of how far we have come, even if we don’t consider it to be very far, because working during a pandemic is very stressful and many people have difficult home lives as well.
We should try and do as much work as we can during this month and August so that we feel less overwhelmed in September, and we can try to work in smaller sections and set realistic goals.
For me personally, dividing each topic into 3-5 sections and using the pomodoro method to work was extremely helpful in preventing me from procrastination. I wasn’t easily distracted, and I felt less overwhelmed. The key apps that helped me maintain this structure and routine were Adapt – Revision Timetable and Be Focused.