By Rob Cullivan | CNews Editor
One student called it “the never-ending circus.” Another labeled it “Rona.” Still another called it “Virus 19,” and then added he simplified it sometimes to just “The Virus.” “It’s the only virus I’ve known,” he said.
By now, the readers should have figured out fifth graders at Faubion School, 2930 NE Dekum St., were talking about Covid 19 and how it changed their lives forever over the past two years.
In a group interview, students in Nathaniel Williams’ class spoke with CNews on May 16 about how they dealt with online classes during the lockdowns as well as how they adjusted to full-time in-person learning this year. Here’s what the kids said:
When Covid 19 triggered government mandated lockdowns in early 2020, the fifth-grade students were all in third grade.
One child noted the lockdowns initially seemed like fun: “I was happy I could spend time with friends and family.”
But most of the students said staying at home quickly turned from a novel situation into one they didn’t like.
“I prefer much more in-person school.”
“It’s hard for me personally because I need one-on-one learning.”
“It was soooo isolating.”
“I feel like I lost my social skills.”
The students had somewhat mixed views regarding online learning – staying at home allowed them more sleep, for example, but a number noted working online didn’t always fully engage them the way being in a classroom does. Some even confessed to misleading their teachers about the level of attention they were paying to a subject.
“I would just pretend my computer was having difficulty.”
“If it got too loud, my mom would tell me to turn down the computer volume.”
“I feel like I didn’t learn anything new, and nothing helped me.”
A recurring issue for the children was how the lockdowns affected their ability to socialize when they returned to school. Several said they felt it set back their ability to mature and interact well with others.
“In a classroom you can connect with people … but on a computer you can’t really affect that.”
“It was hard to hang out with my friends because you always had to be (six feet) away from them.”
“We were kind of going insane … we got angrier.”
One student said he did learn how to cook for himself, and others said they did enjoy spending more time with their relatives, including young cousins also unable to attend school in person. One child noted a benefit of learning at home was it made him more of a self-starter, perusing learning sites online without being prompted by a teacher.
When they returned, Williams said the children took a while to adjust to being back at school, and asked far more questions than his fifth graders did in years past.
“What I noticed is they needed a lot of affirmation,” he said. “They were looking around like they’d never been in a classroom.” He and the students chuckled when one child reminded him he had said they “were all acting like a bunch of third graders” at first. “If we had to do online school till college, we’d all still be acting like third graders in college!” one student said.
No generation of American children until now has ever dealt with an event quite like Covid – even during the influenza that swept the nation from 1918-20. Millions of children like the ones at Faubion lost out on a couple of years of in-person learning, and it’s clear after talking to them that the fifth graders at Williams’ class have been changed forever by the lockdowns.
Kaleb Negash said he most missed seeing his extended family during the lockdowns. “If I have kids, they’re going to see their aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and grandparents five days a week!”
Adelaide Maddox, 11, said they, too, has learned to cherish their family.“I’m going to try to see my family again and again and to never waste any minutes with them because you never know when you will see them again.”
CNews Editor Rob Cullivan is a veteran journalist, publicist and grant writer who has written about everything from rock ‘n’ roll to religion. He possesses a deep affection for writers and photographers who hit deadline.