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'I'm Just Stressed Out All The Time': High School Survey Shows Social-Emotional Impact Of COVID-19

Spencer Tritt

Most Illinois students have been learning remotely for some if not the entire fall.

Students of all grade levels are struggling with the academic and emotional stress of remote learning in a pandemic.

School districts have offered additional social-emotional support to try and help them manage the array of challenges.

The DeKalb School District has provided some social-emotional learning opportunities. They also sent out a survey asking high school students for specific ways they could improve the experience.

High schoolers wrote about what has helped them and how the school could do better. One student wrote, “Plan, procrastinate, panic. Works like a charm and it’s gotten me this far.”

High schoolers often talked about having trouble keeping up with an overwhelming workload.

Others argued that if the school wants to do social-emotional lessons, they should devote more time to it and make space where it feels safe to share.

“Some of the questions -- while they are good questions to ask -- make the students feel awkward and do not really want to answer personal questions while on a group meet with classmates,” another student put it.

DeKalb along with other districts will stay remote through at least the new year, with COVID-19 numbers still much higher than when the school year started.

Obtained by WNIJ via the Freedom of Information Act, here are more anonymous thoughts from DeKalb High School students answering the question, "What ideas do you have to help you become more successful in school?"

• “I believe teachers should use class time to do work. I have done up to several hours of homework a day. It is difficult to balance out my life if I am on the computer 6+ hours a day and obviously (it) will make my mental and physical health decline and cut off from real-life social opportunities. Seminars and problem solving really are not going to help. Think about this from a student's point of view. If teachers assign too much work, students will simply not do it because of how overwhelming it is, which SEVERAL studies have proved this. Listen to science.”

• “Decrease amount of work and essays, it stresses everyone out.”

• “Understand that kids have a life outside of school and busy work isn't going to make us happy to go to a class. Better explaining on assignments instead of just throwing them at us as well. I don't like how the school has constructed e-learning for this year and I'm kinda disappointed in the school system. My friend’s mental health is declining, and they aren't getting their work done and their grades are awful. What we really need is less work which sounds like your stereotypical teen not wanting to do class work but it's not.”

• “Let me be honest with you. NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE SEL (social-emotional learning) LESSONS!!!!!! Teachers make fun of them and they are nothing but a time waster. They haven’t helped me to do anything except be bored. That is the honest truth. Give us something that actually helps us.”

• “I like to stay organized and I always ask my teachers for help. However, I feel like the special Wednesdays aren't really helpful for me.”

• “To green screen myself during google meets so I can take a nap. Disclaimer: this was a joke. In all seriousness, a successful strategy I used during these unprecedented times is just going beast-mode. Not everyone can achieve this feat especially knowing my peers...but it’s the effort that counts.”

• “I think it would be great if there something like a guide or like a group of people who help new students to interact with other people.”

• “Make individual check ins for students from a trusted staff member or teacher at least once every couple of weeks.”

• “I always do my homework the day it's assigned because if I don’t, I won't do it at all. I have found that making to-do lists helps me finish all of my work for school.”

• “Less schoolwork would help me be more successful, in in-person school we wouldn't be getting this much homework -- it's ridiculous.”

• “I also think that having more time between each class is better, so that kids can work on homework, or just catch a break that they need so they can try their best. I know I might be sounding picky, but I am going through all of these things and it's been a really hard year for me, I feel like I’m not my full self and that I just need to have a break once and awhile.”

• “HOW DOES READING A BORING STORY HELP US SUCCEED PLEASE ANSWER I'm just stressed out all the time, maybe one assignment from one class per week? or three at max? Having times during or after class where we can meet with our peers, study, or do homework together.”

• “I think we need to dedicate more time to these lessons if we are actually going to do them. These 10-minute lessons do not really help because there is not much time to cover anything. I am not trying to hate on these lessons, I really do think they help some people but I also think that the 3 lessons that I have been in have been kind of repetitive and do not seem to cover much in the time allotted.”

• “Something that can help me become more successful in school is have the teacher physically teach us on a white board during Google Meet.”

• “Making an email filter helps a lot. It also helps to make sure that I have a comfortable posture and setting that lets me focus.”

• “Sleep.”