Student: How COVID destroyed my view of school

Yakierra Minor, Guest Columnist

This story was originally published at The Oklahoman


Before COVID, I enjoyed school. I would get up before the sun came up and get dressed for my day. I would be so excited to go and talk to some friends and learn new things. Math was my favorite subject. For me, math was straightforward. I didn’t struggle with interpretations of formulas, numbers or the answers. I loved to go to school. It was a reason to get out of the house. I found excitement for my life in school.

Once COVID hit Oklahoma, all of that changed. If you would’ve told me then that I would be struggling in school academically and emotionally, I would not have believed you.

What changed?

For about the first two months at home, I did not take COVID seriously. Doing schoolwork on Teams was new. I was so used to being in class and not surrounded by distractions. Being around family is fun, but that also comes with immediate distractions. It was easy to get bored and turn to playing a game instead of focusing on schoolwork. Because of the uncertainty and scare about COVID, I did not step outside of my house for months.

Then one day, during a video class break, my sister and I went outside and just stood in the sun. That was the start of a ritual that became longer each day. We’d walk down the street and back, look at the flowers, the clouds, the sunset. We developed a new appreciation for nature and the outdoors. Since then, every opportunity I got, I would go outside ― during breaks and after school.

All this led me to think about how much time we spend in the classroom and whether the structure of schools should be reformed to include a more open environment for different types of learning.

I spend about seven hours a day for five days a week at school over 36 weeks. But the current structure no longer works well for me. Thanks to COVID, I would prefer to be able to choose whether I want to spend my time in an inside classroom or in a classroom outside.

When children have the option to choose how they are going to learn, it gives them more freedom. I know from experience that with more freedom I feel more comfortable, and it allows me to be more creative and express myself more. I believe that, for some students, choosing how they learn something could change their attitude about school and how they behave in school.

Linking lessons to the real world

If students are getting a brief lesson from their teacher, then go out into the world to see how it applies in real life, they can automatically link an experience to what they have learned. They could add even more knowledge to what they have learned in the classroom, and it would raise their understanding of how practical lessons interact with the realities of life.

Too often, students’ opinions are suppressed because they are deemed inexperienced. I have heard plenty of times that no one knows you like you know yourself. That also applies to kids. Kids would know which learning environment they feel more productive in and what interests them. Allowing them to voice their wants and needs helps the kids be more attentive and actually enjoy themselves as they learn. Adults should have meaningful conversations with students that allow them to express their concerns about what’s best for them.

Minimal changes that can be made to have meaningful results in the growing youth. I am not saying to not have mandatory schooling, but I am saying the current structure does not work for everyone.

For kids like me, going back to school has been boring. We have been through so much change that returning to a normal school setting has been both underwhelming and overwhelming. Allow students to get something close to what they had during COVID in the school building but in a format that is not so restricted. Allow students time by themselves to decompress. The current traditional learning environment does not allow all students to thrive. Offer options that allow students to spend more time outside. We are conditioned at an early age to the cycle of going to school and staying there for hours on end. I am grateful that the pandemic did cause the schools to shut down because if it were not for the pandemic, I would not have realized how much I like the outdoors. I would not have realized how much nature helps me to learn better.