COVID-19 creativity, classes and connecting from home: a student’s perspective
By Roni Java
Special to Plumas News
Plumas County students in grades K-12 are getting a good, long dose of staying home from school and doing their homework from the couch due to California’s public health protection measures for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.
As school sites remain closed countywide, the Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) and charter and private schools have implemented innovative distance-learning options to keep students engaged with their education.
Support from families and teachers has also been vital and students have adapted to the changed learning environment put in place districtwide approximately mid-March.
Plumas News recently checked in with a high school student to see what it’s like to be studying completely at home under the COVID-19 health alert.
“My remote studies have been a huge change and something I never expected,” Kayla Thackeray said, offering her perspective about the positive and challenging impacts that students are dealing with while the COVID-19 safety orders are in place.
Thackeray is a sophomore at Quincy Junior-Senior High School.
“I am a student who loves learning through the connections I make with teachers, so it’s different now because my connections are digital,” she said, explaining that she still feels connected to her education and teachers through PUSD’s distance-learning program. But she’s experiencing that connection in a whole new way.
“I think all our teachers are using this unique time to enhance our learning,” Thackeray noted. “For example, in English we do a lot of self-reflecting and journaling, especially on our feelings during quarantine and this pandemic.”
Staying hopeful and motivated
The student touched on an emotional aspect of the stay-home directive, saying having teachers constantly reach out helps her to stay hopeful and motivated.
“I can tell my teachers are giving all their effort to try and help continue my studies during this time, so I should honor that and use them,” Thackeray explained, adding that she loves being able to (mostly) create her own schedule. She said she is also enjoying the opportunity to hold herself accountable for her schoolwork and learning.
Challenges of being separated
“Some of the challenges I face right now include feeling like the assignments I do have no purpose or are not going to count,” Thackeray said. “But the most important thing is that I keep growing in my education. It does not matter if I never get a letter grade or points for an assignment, that’s not what learning is about.”
Many students appreciate that being part of their school is about a lot more than studies, too.
Thackeray also serves as Quincy’s High’s sophomore class president. If COVID-19 had never erupted around the world and her school campus was open, she would be playing softball and planning student leadership activities right now.
“I’m also part of the Friday Night Live program along with Service Club and I miss getting to be a part of those meetings and activities,” she said, speaking for herself and many fellow students. “I am a very social person. I love human connection so it’s hard to feel so separated. I really miss school activities like pep rallies where the whole school came together!”
Creativity and feeling loved
Thackeray said when it comes to maintaining social connections in isolation and preserving happy traditions, her friends and family members have definitely gotten creative.
“I live in Quincy and love it,” she explained. “I celebrated my 16th birthday in April, and instead of having a party, I Face-Timed (video called) my relatives and friends. That birthday will be a memory I never forget. I got messages from all my teachers and it reminded me why I love living in this community. I know it’s hard to stay hopeful and happy during these times, but the staff and teachers at my school do so much to make every student feel loved.”
Another day, she said she and two of her friends “actually met and arranged our cars in a circle, distanced from each other, just so we could talk. We ended up spending seven hours just talking from a distance.”
Gratitude in the time of COVID
Studying at home all these weeks and creating new routines have been challenging for students and their families everywhere in Plumas County since the stay-at-home order went into effect.
So until campuses reopen, and they will, students like Thackeray are finding their own silver linings and opportunities for gratitude.
“I cannot remember a time,” she said, “when I have ever before said out loud, ‘I miss school.’ I know I’ve thought about it, but I’ve never admitted it. Well, now I say I miss school at least three times a day!”
The 10th-grader also misses silent, independent reading during her Friday English classes and revealed her humorous side when she said she misses “silly” things.
“Like watching our teachers dance or seeing other students, kids I have never even talked to, laughing with their friends. I miss acting like I know what I am doing during chemistry labs. I will never take those simple things for granted ever again.”