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“A lot my teachers aren’t tech-savvy,” says Morgan, a sophomore at Rockdale Magnet. “So it really hinders how much and how efficiently my teachers can teach new information, and assess older information that we were taught before we were dismissed from school.”

Illustration by Zariah Taylor

Atlanta Teens Say #QuaranTEEN Life Has Made School Year “Very Confusing and Frustrating”

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It’s August. You’re arriving at school on the first day. Everyone’s dressed to impress, either feeling excited for the upcoming school year or dreading all the work to come. Ahhh, all the time we took for granted. Who would’ve thought that a few months later the COVID-19 pandemic would hit and we’d be locked in our homes, not knowing what the next day holds, and quarantined from our friends?

For many students, everyday life feels like it’s been snatched from an episode of “The Walking Dead.” Although social distancing is the only practical way to handle the spread of the coronavirus, the negative side effects of daily life being halted are being felt everywhere. For teens specifically, proms have been canceled, club meetings have been indefinitely postponed, and graduation ceremonies are being halted. Teenagers are currently living through history, and will forever remember that one school year where they were at home for weeks due to a deadly virus. I spoke with eight teens from different grades to get their perspective on how the coronavirus has impacted their school year.

#Quaranteen

Amirah, 18, Senior, Carver Early College High School: It’s very confusing and frustrating. First off, because I’m a senior, [there are] all these activities we have planned [that] are very exciting, and I’ve waited four years to do them. It’s awful not knowing what is and is not gonna happen. And then it’s also the money factor. These things don’t just happen, it takes time and preparation and money to do a lot of this. For example, hair and nail appointments for events like prom and graduation. I have no idea if I should still book appointments for these. That’s on top of senior dues and things that went towards these events. What’s gonna happen with that? Should I still even bother to save to pay those? Will I get back what I already paid?

Morgan, 15, Sophomore, Rockdale Magnet School For Science And Technology: I think the largest impact the coronavirus has had on my education is the timeliness in which information is distributed from my teachers. A lot my teachers aren’t tech-savvy, so it really hinders how much and how efficiently my teachers can teach new information, and assess older information that we were taught before we were dismissed from school.

Sai, 17, Senior, South Forsyth High School: For me personally, my school has converted to online learning and the teachers are doing their part very diligently and [being flexible], so it has been pretty nice although a little hectic. But I think things are going on track, although I am a little concerned about AP exams. I just don’t know if colleges will take the credit anymore, especially with units being cut out and the uncertainties of the testing environment and testing at home. Also, the stress and deteriorating mental health of students may make it a bad idea to test at home. Students may also have irregular conditions at home making it hard to test at home, giving people unfair advantages or disadvantages.

Terrance, 15, Sophomore, Marietta High School: It has personally affected me not only as a student but [as] a student leader. A lot of people are asking me questions that I don’t know the answers to. [It has affected] my education [because my] teacher[s] are posting things to our Reminds and our LMS (Two Educational Platforms), and letting us work at our own pace.

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#Quaranteen

Adam, 19, Georgia College And State University: I still have a week to go before we start online instruction, but I feel it’ll be seamless. I mean, I’ll have to remember to check my email so I don’t miss assignments, but I feel it’ll be way easier than having to go to class. I might miss some of my professors though.

Terrance, 15, Sophomore, Marietta High School: It’s been a learning curve for me. You have to adapt to not being able to raise your hand and ask questions, not being able to talk to your friends and teachers, and not being able to have that social connection with people. That is difficult.

Brooklyn, W. 15, Freshman, The New School: It has impacted me a lot. With school being virtual, it allows me to get more sleep (and procrastinate). It also allows me to have some time to myself.

Amirah, 18, Senior, Carver Early College High School: It is very difficult to learn without a teacher, and it’s clear [the teachers] are having trouble adjusting as well. I find myself tackling unreasonable workloads in platforms that barely function with very little help or personal direction. It’s really difficult.

Jason, 16, Freshman, Marietta High School: Online school is not that bad for me at least. I get to wake up at any time I want, I get to start at any time I want. But at the same time, it’s kinda hard for me if I need help or if I get stuck on something. [If] I need the teacher’s help, I have to set up a meeting, I have to do that. It’s kinda hard to contact people from far distances.

Brooklyn C., 16, Sophomore, Marietta High School: For me personally, this whole situation has actually helped me stay on top of my education. When I was younger, I went to private school/homeschool, and so moving to an online platform was already familiar territory to me. It’s been so helpful having all of my assignments in one place and being able to do it on my own time, to be honest. Something that I have struggled with though is [that now] I have all this time to actually do the work, and I have focus problems, so sitting down and working has become harder.

#Quaranteen

Morgan, 15, Sophomore, Rockdale Magnet School For Science And Technology: I don’t think that there is any way that my school system can improve the way that they’re handling as of right now. [I do think that] during these Independent Learning Days (days we build into the school year to practice what to do in situations where we cannot physically be at school) we could have better-taught faculty and staff how to use the tools at their disposal to the best of their ability in the most efficient manner possible. Many technical errors being made are quite easy to have prevented (organizing classwork online between different class periods, turning mics on during online lectures, etc).

Jason, 16, Freshman, Marietta High School: The school has done a lot for us. They have [helped] the people that are in need, and they also helped a lot of kids that need a computer and Wi-Fi access. So it’s kinda sad seeing us working from home, but now the situation has happened and we gotta move on. We gotta keep on moving forward.

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Brooklyn C, 16, Sophomore, Marietta High School: I feel like [my] school system is handling the situation as best that they can. The school system is doing a pretty good job.

Amirah, 18, Senior, Carver Early College High School: They did a lot right, but also I feel like a lot is being mishandled. I do think letting us out of school was right because social distancing is the best solution. However, the confusion over whether or not we were going to be let out [of school] made it hard for teachers to properly prepare. There are so many students without Wi-Fi, without technology, and without resources at home to handle home-schooling. And these are very stressful times, so even for the students who do have those things, it’s still a lot to deal with. Most of these online classes are very complicated and difficult. Far more difficult than what we were doing in the classroom AND without the hands-on, face-to-face help of a teacher. I’d argue that properly completing all of this coursework is impossible. So I’d say I wish they found a better alternative to the online classes, or that they could hold out on the abundance of assignments they are giving because it’s already a hard situation to deal with. They could be far more reasonable.

Brooklyn W., 15, Freshman, The New School: Honestly no. For my school, my principal would send out emails to us to check on the school as a whole, give us updates in the Zoom meetings we have and would allow us to give feedback. They’ve really done all they can in this situation.

Sai, 17, Senior, South Forsyth High School: I think the school system is doing all they can, they’re doing pretty well and are being [as] flexible as they can. In terms of improvement, all I can really think of is that it’s just really important for both parents and teachers to be accomodating, and [for] students to stay open. We are all in this together, so everyone needs to work together to make sure everything runs smoothly.

#Quaranteen

Terrance, 15, Sophomore, Marietta High School: It will look very different than we are traditionally used to. I think that the schools will need to close eventually. We will primarily be using online for the majority of our education. In regards to society, most of our relationships and interactions will go virtual and I think that our global society will become more in tune with personal hygiene and who we are comfortable with during certain things.

Brooklyn C., 16, Sophomore, Marietta High School: I’m going to be completely honest, I really don’t know and it’s scary. The only thing I can really compare it to is like movies and TV shows like “The Walking Dead” y’know? [The idea of] ghost towns and general fear overpowering everyone’s senses.

Adam, 19, Georgia College And State University: This is going to change the way our society does everything for the next generation. I think social distancing is going to become the new normal for a little while, and it’s going to be very visible in the division of class. We’ll have a lot more online activity for everything, like our meetings, like school, and probably higher-paying jobs. My hope is that this teaches us how to be more wholesome and intrinsic, and maybe more self-sufficient. This happened because we don’t have a leader who was prepared for this. If we rely on politicians to take care of us, how the f*ck are we going to take care of ourselves?

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Brooklyn W., 15, Freshman @ The New School: I think it’ll get worse before it gets better. School will probably be virtual, and society will most likely feel isolated as hell and nothing will feel normal. I mean even now it doesn’t feel normal. Reality hasn’t set in yet, so things will definitely feel weird and strange and cooped up and uncomfortable. That’s the one thing that’s keeping people on their toes, the question of what’s going to happen. So it’ll definitely be hellish if this does go on until the end of 2020 (god forbid).

Sai, 17, Senior, South Forsyth High School: I think this should be a time for us to reflect and make changes as necessary. If this situation lasts until the end of 2020, which I certainly hope doesn’t happen, I think learning will definitely start to have a greater push towards integrating technology. I also believe that several areas may incorporate sustainability education and environmental education into their curriculum, as I hope they come to realize how important it is for schools to teach their students to live responsibly and think of their impact on the environment around them. As for society, I am not quite sure. But if anything I hope this crisis brings us together and makes us realize that we are all just human and that we must stick out for each other.

Morgan, 15, Sophomore, Rockdale Magnet School For Science And Technology: If this situation were to last until the end of 2020, I think schools and societies would look vastly different. I do think many schools will have had the opportunity to acclimate to the changes of the surrounding world, especially given that students are not in school during the summer. This would allow planning for the upcoming school year when students return. I do think society looks melancholic. There’s a lack of interaction between people who have had to leave their offices and schools and public places. But there’s also a disconnect between people when people begin to dehumanize others, label the virus as “the Chinese virus”, and panic buy resources without thinking of others. It becomes an “us versus them” mentality and that’s likely to be the greatest effect on society if this pandemic lasts until the end of 2020.

Jason, 16, Freshman, Marietta High School: If this virus keeps going for a little bit longer, a lot will be in need, a lot of people will be losing money, you’ll have a lot of questions going on, a lot of people will need help and a lot of people need extra support. This virus has impacted a whole bunch of places and honestly impacted the people that are in need and need help by the school. A Lot of people need help out there to try [and] keep them safe, but at the same time, a lot of people don’t have enough money to get the support that they need.

Amirah, 18, Senior, Carver Early College High School: I think if that were to happen it would be disastrous. I don’t think anyone, especially the schools, is equipped to handle this. I think society would be in a very tough place.

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