Originally published in The Marina Times.
As San Francisco’s Covid numbers are rising rapidly, many parents might be reconsidering their child’s return to campus. We have heard much national debate from administrators, teachers, and parents about classroom safety but not much about how kids feel. Ultimately, this will be the parents’ choice, but children have their own opinions or feelings about returning to campus.
I sat down with two of my kids to ask them what they thought and how they were feeling about continuing at-home learning or returning to school. Here are their two different perspectives:
MALE, SEVENTH GRADE
I am apprehensive about the possibility of returning to in-person school. I’m not nervous about getting sick — I think my health is in good hands with all the new safety precautions the school has put in place. My biggest worry or fear is it will be so different, and I won’t like it. I liked school before Covid. I enjoyed my teachers and classes, horsing around with my friends at recess, and being able to move about freely. I’m not excited about wearing a mask and face shield all day, worrying about being six feet apart from buddies, and dealing with more rules than already existed. I do think a positive will be being in the same room with my teachers. You are able to have more of a connection in person than over a screen.
This whole Covid thing is getting old, and I know when life gets back to normal, I will have a new appreciation for even the small things.
I have a lot more freedom and independence at home. I like doing school from the comfort of home, not rushing out in the morning and having my dog, Ridley, at my feet all day. The hardest part has been the lack of sports and not being able to play competitively. I have had more time to spend with my siblings, which can be both good and bad. I also have had more time to learn new things like magic, and I am working on building a PC. I have stayed connected with friends through video games, texting, and Facetime. For me it is important to have a schedule or routine that includes daily exercise and outside time. This whole Covid thing is getting old, and I know when life gets back to normal, I will have a new appreciation for even the small things.
FEMALE, NINTH GRADE
I am so excited and anxious to get on campus. Freshman year is when you get to meet a lot of people and I can’t wait to do that. Starting a new school with new teachers and classmates is hard over Zoom, and meeting people through a screen is not ideal. I am looking forward most to in-person interaction. I am not nervous about Covid. I think if we all continue to wear masks and do what we have been doing we will be fine.
My biggest fear about going back to school in person will be that we go back and get in a routine, get a taste of it, and then have to return to distance learning again.
I haven’t been to high school before so I don’t know how it will be different when we go back, but I do know there will be more rules and regulations. Everything from lunchtime, socializing in the halls, dances, sports, and extracurricular activities will look different, and be a far cry from what I imagined.
By far, the hardest part of distance learning has been not being around my friends. We have stayed connected [virtually], but it isn’t the same. It also has been hard having more rules from my parents around what I can do and where I can go. Sometimes these rules or expectations are different from my friends and that has been challenging. This would have happened without Covid, but all the safety precautions have intensified it.
I have spent more time on my phone and social media than I would have if I had been in school and playing sports. The phone can be distracting during class if I don’t turn off my notifications, and this wouldn’t happen in person.
My teachers have talked a lot about mental health. I have tried to take care of myself during this time by taking my dog for a walk, getting enough sleep, and getting exercise. I am learning to play water polo, so that keeps me busy and has enabled me to meet other freshmen. My biggest fear about going back to school in person will be that we go back and get in a routine, get a taste of it, and then have to return to distance learning again.
I spend a lot of time with my children and these answers were surprising. It underscores the importance of checking in on how they are feeling. By asking a few leading questions and taking time to listen, truly listen, and allowing them to be honest and vulnerable, we as parents are able to learn how and where we can support them more during these challenging times.
Liz Farrell is a monthly columnist for San Francisco's Marina Times newspaper. She is a busy mom of three kids--a high schooler, middle schooler and a grade schooler. Liz is also very active in her community serving as Board Chair of the San Francisco Parks Alliance.