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A middle schooler and a high schooler talk about learning during COVID in different grade levels

Devin & Destiny pose next to one of Huntley Middle School's many inspirational signs
Devin & Destiny pose next to one of Huntley Middle School's many inspirational signs

Devin Snow is about to graduate high school. Destiny Hudson is going into 8th Grade. Both DeKalb students have had to learn through the pandemic, but at very different steps in their education journey. WNIJ education reporter Peter Medlin sat down with them to chat about what school has really been like for them the past two years...

Peter Medlin (PM): “What are the words that come to your mind when you think of what the last two years have been like for you?”

Devin Snow, high school senior (DS): “I would just say more understanding. I feel like teachers are a lot better at communicating with the students now that they had to do everything virtual.”

Destiny Hudson, 7th grade student (DH): “I agree, I think I was gonna say challenging. It was more challenging to show how you feel and what you're going through on the computer than if you're in class. If you're overwhelmed with something, they can see that -- and you can’t really see that online.”

PM: “How long were the both of you learning at least partially from home, whether it be fully remote or in a hybrid?”

DH: “Mine was up until the very end of sixth grade.”

PM: “So, all the way up to the end of last year, right?”

DH: Yeah.”

PM: “And what about you, Devin?”

DS: “From the initial lockdown, throughout all of last year.”

PM: “And so when all of this started, back in March of 2020, you were in 5th grade, Destiny. Now you're almost going to be in 8th grade! I mean, and for you, Devin, I have to imagine it kind of feels like you missed out on a lot of high school, right?”

DS: “Yeah, for sure. I feel like a lot of like the memories, I normally would have, like, going to prom for the first time -- I missed out on a lot of things. The school definitely tried their best, but it wouldn't be the same.”

PM: “And the remote learning you both ended up doing, you said that one of the words that describe the experience was challenge?

DH: “Yeah, and in 6th grade it was really difficult. I play the trumpet, and so I had to learn my instrument online. And then I wasn't used to having like five different teachers. So, I was adjusting to them giving me work and then having a deadline and not being able to redo stuff. I think the school made it easier. There were counselors here to talk to you. They made it known. But I did think it was more difficult than I expected it to be.”

PM: “Did you feel like there was enough access to those type of mental health resources if you needed them?”

DS: “Yeah, absolutely, definitely at the high school. We had a program that was called ‘SEL’ lessons. Every Thursday, we would take one period out of the day and just talk about -- the whole acronym stands for Social Emotional Learning -- and so it's just like a lesson on like coping mechanisms and that type of thing. They realize that being stuck at home for an entire year is not really the best situation to be in and definitely impacts your mental health. So, they made sure that they were reaching out to us and letting us know that we understood that they were there for us.”

PM: “Were there like extracurricular clubs, or sports or things like that, that you guys either missed out on or were different than it could have been?”

DS: “I know you said you play the trumpet. You just started during that full year of COVID, right?”

DH: “Pretty much, yeah.”

DS: “Did you have in-person concerts or anything?”

DH: “Yeah, we did. We had fun concert online. We recorded ourselves, and then they kind of all banded it together [with editing software].”

PM: “Oh! How did that go?”

DH: “It was great. It was really good. We play it now in-person, we play it as a memory. I think it was really cool to do that, but I think it was really difficult to learn that concert by myself not knowing how to hold the instrument.”

PM: “I can imagine! Are there any parts about your experience learning during the pandemic, that you just think that more people should talk about? Or you're like, ‘I don't think that they quite understand what this has been like?’”

DH: “I think I'm still stuck on the social [aspect]. I had this one friend I spoke to and she didn't have a phone. So, we didn't get to text or call each other. It was really weird. I was by myself, pretty much. I was with my family members, but I didn't really get to have kids my age around me, talking to me. And I thought that I was the only one going through these emotions and experiencing all this work piling up and like, I didn't really feel good about it. Then when I got to school, and kids started talking about it, I realized I wasn't the only one going through it. So, I don't think people understand how much pressure it put on you and how you have to hold yourself accountable to wake up every day.”

DS: “I'd say the biggest thing that I see people talking about that I don't really agree with is the whole movement to go fully back in person. I really did not like remote learning. That's not my favorite thing at all. But with the whole pandemic going on, I feel like a lot of parents, they didn't really understand the student's views on COVID. Because at least with a lot of my friends, they were a lot more nervous about like the dangers of COVID, especially when it's like really new. I feel like a lot of parents just skipped past that and their students views on it and just pushed their own views of like seeing their kids struggling in their classes and stuff -- and then thinking that they need to go in right away. There are the two sides of the story that I don't think get represented fairly.”

PM: “You see a lot of parents that had really, really strong opinions about that and about masks, specifically. Did you find that was even an issue that students really cared about one way or another?”

DH: “Not really.”

PM: “What are some of the positive memories that stick out to you over the last two years of cool experiences you've had?”

DS: “I took AP US History last year and there were a lot of debates. It was a massive debate, just one side and the other. It was a group of like 15 people each working on a side and from my side everyone actually made a whole group chat, and they were working outside of class. I'm friends with all of them now.”

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.