As a society, we asked a lot of kids during the pandemic. We closed their schools down abruptly without any idea of what would happen next. We asked them to be quiet while on a work Zoom call, or to babysit younger siblings so their parents could work in person.
No proms, no playdates. None of the essential rituals kids use to mark their transition from one phase of their life to another — visiting kindergarten, touring the middle school, walking across the podium at high school graduation.
Remote school was hard for many kids, but it did have some silver linings. WBUR talked to middle and high schoolers about their experience with remote school. Some of them found confidence. Some of them reveled in the freedom. And some just really liked the extra sleep they got. Read on to learn what they said, in their own words, lightly edited for clarity.
Stefan Lachenmann, 10th grade, Newton
On online schooling: "It is kind of nice to not have to just walk to school every day. ... It is nice to have that hour back. It's an hour I can sleep or something else. ... Another nice thing about online school is that at any time I can just tap the 'camera off' button and then quickly go get a drink of water or something without having to actually disrupt the class."
For the future: "It would be nice to have teachers just to be able to give a five minute break in the middle of class so we could shift gears better... We could stop, process, think a little bit, have some time to take down notes."
Nadia Dumitru, 6th grade, Boston
"I hope that I never have to do online school again because even though you just wake up and hop right on your computer, it gives me headaches by staring at screen seven hours a day. We also missed a lot of fun things because we were doing school on a computer. I also hope that I never have to wear mask again because they're really annoying to wear for the whole school day...
During quarantine I learned how to manage around this horrible pandemic that has just started and how to spend more time with my family. I also learned a lot from school, even though it was hard to get taught online. But I wish schools could teach more subjects than just math or science — like a subject you actually enjoy that you could choose to learn."
Christelle Charles, 9th grade, Boston
"I feel like COVID has helped teachers understand that students feel this way too, so they have to go through life too, they should carry on awareness and making sure everyone is OK and their mental health is stable."
Abby Matthews, 12th grade, Newton
"Newton South is historically, really academically rigorous. And [the pandemic] just took the pressure off a lot of things. If you were meeting expectations, that was now automatically an A. So I didn't have as much academic pressure. ... I think that also kind of helped with the transition [back to school]. It wasn't like we hit the ground running with school and all of a sudden it went back to normal."
On the traditional celebrations of senior year of high school: "There was a big chunk there in January, February where everyone was like, 'You need to be prepared to not have anything at all. You need to be prepared to kind of just do what you want on your own.' So I'm grateful for everything that's happening [this year]."
On the social aspects of school: "I think [educators] definitely need to think about the fact that online learning doesn't carve any room for social aspects. You could put kids in a breakout room and tell them to do something, and they're probably going to get it done, but they're definitely not going to talk to each other unless they were already originally friends. And I can't imagine what it would be like if I was starting off school as a freshman and had gone through this whole year. That's really crucial in order to be able to do well in classes. In my experience, you need those people you could call on for help, homework, study for things, or even just to know when things were due and where...
"I was fortunate that a lot of my teachers were super, super, energetic and upbeat and willing to take on the challenges that were thrown at them. But I know a lot of kids didn't always have that experience. So I hope in the future, school administrators and teachers will be able to have a better relationship, so the teachers don't feel so strained having to deal with all of the problems on their own."
Alvin Kasozi, 6th grade, Waltham
"[Remote school] had some good sides and bad sides. One good side was I got to be home and I was comfortable. I could also eat snacks whenever I wanted."
On going back to in-person school: "It was like the first day of school, but except we all knew each other, but everyone was different. When you were on [the computer], you would only see the top part. Some people were taller and some people were shorter than you expected, and it was fun."
At school: "Maybe add some benches or tables outside so kids can start eating outside."
Ana Maravic, 6th grade, Boston
On online school: "We started later, which was nice. It was just kind of hard because you're in your bedroom, but you're in class and it's kind of distracting because of what's going on at home, like pets and siblings and stuff. But most of the time I have my dog in my class with me, so we kind of bonded with one of my friends. She has three sisters and she was really happy to start hybrid.
"I think [the teachers] did really well with everything, because it must be really hard to teach everyone over Zoom, and you can't really tell someone [who's misbehaving] to stop ... and you can't really control what everyone else does. ... They definitely were good at finding different platforms and things we can use so it doesn't get boring."
Declan Collins, 10th grade, Holliston
"I think the teachers gave a lot more discretion to the students about what the students wanted and what they needed. They were very interactive in the sense that they would ask students how to approach a certain topic — what would be the best approach to a certain topic, or lesson. I think that moving forward, it would be really good for maybe students to help plan the curriculum."