The youth of today are no strangers to upheaval. From protests and walkouts to the emergence of technology in schools, they have seen more than their fair share of change. However, no one was quite prepared for the complete bedlam 2020 would bring to education, least of all the students! The students of Thurston County, like the rest of the students around the world, face their own struggles and triumphs in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The students in Thurston County are definitely meeting the challenges of online schooling head on. While the idea of sticking students in front of a screen for six hours a day has the potential to be quite troubling, for every negative aspect online school has thrown at them, these students are able to find a positive side.

For example, it is very hard to not see your friends in person, but, there are positives for that too. “It’s a lot harder to get in a fight with friends when you’re on zoom,” shares Sydney. “And my mom even accused me of online flirting.”

Yes, it is difficult staying in your home all day, but you don’t have to get up as early, says as Kaitlyn Oakes, a sixth grader. “You can just get up and walk across your room and start your zoom in your pajamas.” She admits that the amount of screen time does sometimes give her headaches. Her older sister Ellie Oakes, an eighth grader, nods in agreement.

Ellie Oakes, an eight grader, shares that it’s harder to get help on assignments with online school. Photo credit: Shannon Oakes

“Online school is more stressful than in person school,” shares Ellie. “It is harder to get more help on assignments.” This seems like a common theme. Every student interviewed admits that, overall, online education is more difficult than in-person school, for a couple reasons, including lack of in person connection and communication.

“I wish there were not as many different websites to turn all the homework in,” says Ryann Frost, a sixth grader. “All the google classrooms are a little challenging.”

“I think it’s a little more stressful because it is easier to pay attention when you are in person and not staring at them on a screen,” adds Quinn LaDoux, a second grader. It seems to be the general consensus that there are simply some things a computer screen cannot make up for.

Dana Woods, mother of Kellen Woods and a first grade teacher, also agrees. “I think the best fix is just to have kids back,” she says. “Of course, safety is extremely important. And I completely understand. I just can’t wait to get them back.”

Despite the difficulties, these students know their teachers are doing their best to help them continue to learn. Many praise their teachers for the effort they are investing in their students’ education. “I know my teacher is trying pretty hard and is doing a good job,” says Kellen Woods, a sixth grader.

“I think teachers are doing a great job handling online school the way they are now,” says Sydney LaDoux, a sixth grader.

“I think teachers are doing a great job handling online school the way they are now,” adds Sydney LaDoux, a sixth grader.

There are many setbacks to online learning. Sydney says she has trouble falling asleep due to the amount of screen time. Ellie admits to sometimes getting neck and back pains from sitting so long. However, even in the most disappointing of situations, you can always leave it up to children to see the bright side of life. In fact, the overall favorite question presented to each kid seemed to be, “how are you spending your free time?”

“I do have some more free time,” Mikey Duerr, a fourth grader, says. “I do a lot of baseball training. I really like playing baseball and I get to see a lot of my friends through my baseball team.”

Ryann Frost, a sixth grader, takes a break from school work to play with her bunny, which gives her eyes a rest from the screen and her brain a much needed mental break. Photo credit: Jodi Frost

“I’ve done more of my hobbies,” Eliza Gatenbein shares. She has also had a bit of difficulty adjusting to online learning.  “I do piano and soccer. I think I’m also getting more exercise because I have a little bit more time to go on runs.”

Ellie and Kaitlyn say they love playing outside with each other and reading. Ryann spends her time playing hide and seek with her new bunny. Kellen has taken up fly fishing, motivated by a class he took at school last year. Sydney and Quinn say they try to balance out the screen time in our day. This comes in the form of walks to the beach, dance lessons on Wednesdays, and reading Harry Potter, multiple times.

“We teachers just desperately want our students back,” says Dana. “We can’t wait to see them all again.” It is only too obvious the students feel the same way. But until then, they will have to settle for playing games with their bunnies and going to school in fuzzy onesies. 

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