Youthentity column: Coping with a school year unlike any other |

Youthentity column: Coping with a school year unlike any other

Kirsten McDaniel

Undoubtedly, this school year has been, well, highly unusual. Almost a year into the pandemic, and the day-to-day methods and environments through which students typically learn has been turned on its head – nothing seems predictable or routine.

From day-to-day, students may attend classes from home, in a classroom, or with a select group of students or “pods.” Some may argue that young people are flexible and easily adaptable — and that may be relatively true — yet the unprecedented events of 2020 and 2021 are still overwhelming and continue to be a lot for kids to digest and process.

We asked our high school Career Academy students — at this point in the pandemic, they are distance learning veterans — to provide some perspective on this academic year and share with us how they’ve coped – and how they haven’t. They told us how they stay focused, motivated and maintain a feeling of normalcy. In sharing their experiences, our hope is that other students will feel less alone as they cope with an unprecedented year.

“I’ve realized I need to reach out more and ask questions. It seems easier to feel lost especially if you have to quarantine and join class remotely while other students are in the classroom. Often it seems the teacher may be speaking more to the in-person students, so it takes more effort on my part – it’s more up to me to engage.”

“I have to admit I haven’t done a great job at staying motivated. It’s been tough, and I think we all need to realize that it’s just hard, and some days will be better than others. Also, realizing that you’re not alone — we’re all experiencing some level of lack of focus and staying motivated.”

“Keeping a routine has been really important for me – even when it’s tough to keep a routine because you’re unsure of how the next day or week will go! I try to write down my priorities for the week and plan my days by time blocking assignments and projects.”

“Take a walk and get away from your computer. Mental health should be number one, and I’ve found that getting away from my screen is a necessary reset.”

“Pet dogs whenever you can. See a dog, pet it.”

“Realize that it’s OK to not be OK. Some days are just not great.”

“Don’t beat yourself up for not getting something done; tomorrow is a new day and make it your number one goal to get it done then.”

“It takes more effort to reach out to friends these days. But it’s important to make that connection. Even if it’s been a while, reach out to someone. They’ll be glad to hear from you.”

Our high school Career Academy students are a wise bunch indeed. As we’ve just heard, young people are struggling as much as anyone else, and they look forward to the normalization of their class schedules and everyday lives. In the meantime, I believe we can all take their advice to heart: reach out, check in with each other, prioritize mental health, and realize that tomorrow brings a new day of opportunity. And don’t forget to pet dogs.

Kirsten McDaniel is the executive director for Youthentity, a nonprofit organization providing training and hands-on experiences for Roaring Fork Valley youth in business, finance and trades.

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