These are unprecedented times in Washington state. Most school districts are still doing remote learning and some are transitioning to hybrid learning models. But how are students navigating this historic school year, and how can we best support them now?

In this webinar, we partnered with The Root of Our Youth to assemble a panel of students from across Washington to share how they are doing and how we can help. They also answer your questions.

Moderated by League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman.

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What Students need Now

LEVinar Recap by Lizzeth Mancilla, Engagement / Policy Intern

 

Students across Washington state are navigating their way through a historic school year. They are facing a period of racial inequity, civil unrest, polarizing political climate, and living through a global pandemic, all on top of unconventional learning models.

School districts started off the 2020-2021 school year either through remote learning, hybrid learning, in-person learning, or a combination. Sidney (senior at Woodinville High School in Woodinville), Phia (senior at Bothell High School in Bothell), Lily (sophomore at South Ridge High School in Kennewick), Maham (8th grader at West Valley Junior High School in Yakima), Zana (junior at Bethel High School in Spanaway), Malachi (junior at University High School in Spokane), Tara (junior at Bothell High School in Bothell), and Diya (junior at Bothell High School in Bothell) spoke with us on how their school experience is going so far and how adults can best support them.

On how the school year is going for students

The students reflected on the burdens remote learning is placing on them, starting with their nameplates on Zoom. Students are having to manually and repeatedly change their nameplate to their preferred names and pronouns.

Phia shared her frustration with her assigned name on Zoom. Although her preferred name, Phia, is on the roster, she still has to go into the Zoom settings every day to display her preferred name. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for trans and non-binary students… I really wish the district would acknowledge this issue,” Phia said.

Diya stated that she wished teachers were more empathetic to students’ situations. “A lot of them are expecting us to work even harder because they think we have more time on our hands… which in reality is not necessarily true,” Diya said. “There are students who are working more jobs, [and] students struggling with mental health, so it’s not always such an easy situation.”

Tara agreed, emphasizing that teachers should be more understanding and meet students where they’re at.

Students also shared common frustrations around the transition into advanced classes and Running Start. They call for more organization and support from their schools.

On the other hand, some students have managed to find some pros to remote learning. Sidney has found that she is able to wake up later and exercise between classes, helping her maintain her energy and focus. Malachi, actor, model, and singer has found that remote learning gives them more opportunities to film auditions and go on set.

On how adults can best support students

Students shared powerful perspectives about wanting teachers to be more cognizant and considerate of what is going on in our society.

Sidney shared a heartfelt sentiment. “Yesterday we heard of another slaughtering of a black person by police, so for those of us who are people of color, we’re living through this time when there’s a lot of racial uprising and people are really starting to understand what we’ve been trying to tell them for hundreds of years,” Sidney said. “It’s a lot going on outside of school and then we’re supposed to sit on the computer [for class].”

Similarly, Phia expressed how difficult it is to complete school work because today’s news takes a huge toll on her. She explained that there are nights when the news greatly impacts her to the point where she can’t do homework.

Students conveyed that they would appreciate having counselors or the ability to connect with individuals who identify as a person of color, queer, trans, etc. in hopes of finding someone who experiences similar feelings and struggles.

Malachi asks for adults to be more supportive and understanding. “They can be more motivating and just say ‘hey it’s okay you know if you need a break, a breather. Okay, perfect.’ Instead of saying ‘Okay, get it done.’”

Furthermore, Zana believes teachers need to be more considerate and realize that although some students may be able to juggle school and what’s going on in the world, others struggle to do so.

Students also held mutual concerns about the lack of boundaries. They feel teachers aren’t respecting their lives outside of school. Maham wants teachers to understand that they have other obligations and aren’t home all the time. Tara asks for teachers to have homework due the next class period instead of scheduling it for random days and times. In addition, Lily wants teachers to lighten the workload in an effort to make balancing school and life more manageable.

Dr. Rhoan Garnett

Dr. Rhoan Garnett, a.k.a. Dr. G, Founder of Youth Experiencing Mentoring Consulting and We Bridge Belonging (WeBe), concluded this insightful discussion with an incredibly moving spoken word titled “Live Life Alive.”

“Children are often understood to be idealistic and adults realistic. The young think anything is possible. Adults focus on smaller more achievable goals. Many adults would say this is part of growing up… Somehow growing up and becoming worldly has become the mysterious force that changes a person and stops them from dreaming. Have goals but never stop dreaming even if you must adapt. Courage is the way to understand the world,” Dr. G said. “This is what I wish. That you’ll [youth] remind us adults what humanity looks and sounds and feels like. For now, I’m following you students, scholars, leaders, and mentors, and your generation into the future doing my small part to make it better. Towards it. Together. In oneness. To live life alive.”

Watch the full LEVinar with the student panel here.

 

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