Siblings, cats, and other disruptions: New York students reflect on their first week of online learning

This is part of an ongoing collaborative series between Chalkbeat and WNYC/Gothamist reporting the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on how New York students learn and on how educators teach.  

Getting distracted by parents and siblings in close quarters. Longing to see friends and wrestling with new technology. Creating memes and finding levity. Fearing the future. Cats messing up their Zoom video calls.

This is just a sampling of what we heard from the more than 120 students who wrote to us and called into WNYC this week – as these students and almost a million of their peers began remote learning.

The threat of the coronavirus continues to grow, and it’s unlikely that New York City schools will reopen this year. As students adjust to their new normal, we wanted to know: How’s it going? Here’s what students had to say, in their own words.

🔗Fearing what they will miss but embracing new routines

Sebastian Winter, 11th grader at Edward R. Murrow High School (Sebastian Winter)

Remote learning is not the same as physically being at school. The human interaction is something different that everyone needs. – Armando Xique Trujillo, student at Brooklyn Collaborative Studies

It’s going OK, but it’s a bit hard to use on my phone and some students don’t have a computer or access to electronics. But I do get to focus better and I have more time to finish [my work]. – Damaris Frias, middle school student at the School For Inquiry And Social Justice

I am concerned I won’t learn as much as I should, and since it’s my junior year I’m concerned I won’t be prepared for certain things in different subjects.” – Sebastian Winter, 11th grader at Edward R. Murrow High School

I wake up fairly early and “go to school” at a normal time which is 8:05 a.m. I go through my day and do homework in the same order as my normal classes. I feel overall very productive but my house tends to be more distracting than a school environment. The whole atmosphere feels very gloomy even though everyone in my family tries to make the best of the situation and have fun. – Paromita Talukder, student at The Bronx High School of Science

There’s nothing wrong with my family, as I do enjoy being around them, but seeing the faces of friends and going to classes and going home on the bus with them is always a highlight for my school life. – Erika Orellana, 10th grader at Grover Cleveland High School

🔗Juggling responsibilities and managing distractions

Daria Minhas, ninth grader at the School For Inquiry And Social Justice (Daria Minhas)

As I assimilate to this new form of learning, I am having to juggle responsibilities for my family such as applying for unemployment benefits on behalf of my parents whose linguistic abilities are limited in English. Since my father is over the age of 60, I am also in charge of traveling and getting him necessary medicine or such. – Ali Boivab, student at Townsend Harris High School

My home environment is OK. There are many distractions throughout the day, either being my 2-year-old brother running up and asking me to play with him, or my family being very loud or asking me constant questions. – Daria Minhas, ninth grader at Staten Island Technical High School

Hear Daria in her own words:

I have to manage working from home and learning how to work this new system of working from home. I have a job that I do from home, and also take care of a 3-year-old child. I can’t get any time to actually sit down and concentrate on my schoolwork. – Kyah Harris, student at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies. 

I live in a household filled with six people; there’s always hustle and bustle … One of my parents is unable to work and the other simply cannot risk traveling via train to work due to a weak immune system. So far, it has been easy to ignore the reality of what will occur after this virus hopefully stops spreading. Soon, the reality of it all will be daunting and I’m afraid I don’t know how to grasp such news. – Queentera Gyamerah, student at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School

Justin Lantigua, a senior at High School for Construction Trades, Engineering, and Architecture (Justin Lantigua)

I don’t feel like this is a suitable place to learn because I need an environment that challenges me and I don’t get the same feeling in my own room. Justin Lantigua, senior at High School for Construction Trades, Engineering, and Architecture

🔗Because we all need some hope and levity

It is actually really interesting to me how students are handling it. For example, my school government is trying to set up online activities to continue feeling like a community. Students individually have begun making many memes about the situation, and others are posting social media challenges to keep themselves busy, entertained, and productive. Finding ways to stay productive has become a big priority for people who otherwise never cared for those mindfulness and well-being activities, so it is a nice turn to see people moving toward that. – Tais Kouznetski, senior at Beacon High School

Here are some of those memes that made Tais laugh:

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