Students throughout high school struggle with burnout

Bailey Vydareny, Managing Editor

Here we are, 11 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Though there has been a push since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year to strive for “normality”, both students and teachers can attest that the mark has been far from met. 

The constant changing of school schedules, restrictions in place by the government, inevitable canceling or pushing back of activities, and looming self-quarantines, have left students mentally and physically exhausted. Add this onto Michigan’s annual months of grey and cold, and the perfect formula for burnout has been created.

Since August, the High School has experienced three different schedules of learning: hybrid, fully online, and full in-person. While online school may have some enjoyable aspects, there are several drawbacks. 

 Freshman Alex Thole ‘24 talked about the difficulty of transitioning to high school this past fall. “It definitely made it more challenging because we could not have a real orientation or anything.” Struggles with the online school aren’t limited to the freshman class though, students from all graduating classes are having difficulties with the new reality of learning. “The main difference between online and in-person is being able to ask questions or communicate better with my teacher. If you’re on Zoom and you have a question it’s a lot harder to ask than if you just raise your hand in class,” Caroline Flermoen ‘23 said. Miriam Lam ‘24, shared similar sentiments. “I think I enjoyed [in-person learning] more, I felt more engaged, at home I get distracted really easily,” Lam said.

Though some students have been able to learn in the classrooms, 38% of students remain online. Flermoen spent her first semester online but has returned to in-person learning for the second semester. When asked about her experience as being an online student while others were in the classroom and why she returned in-person, she noted the feeling of isolation. “Even being in class and doing different things than when you’re online [like when] the teacher is like ‘oh online kids do this’ being able to be in class and do labs in Chemistry has changed what I do every day,” Flermonen said. “Being at home you really don’t have interaction with a lot of other people and you get really lonely and bored… every day feels the same.”

Since kindergarten, students’ idea of school has included bustling hallways, roaring lunchrooms, and hands-on activities. However, as students have found, online classes, require a different kind of attention and energy. “[It’s a] different kind of tired. I’m in my room all day, there is no separation between my ‘relax space’ and my ‘workspace,’” Annabel Bee ‘21 said. Bee has been a part of the virtual program since Aug. and noted the effects she has felt that it has had on her learning. “I definitely feel like I’m not learning as much. It is harder to take in information when you aren’t responsible for paying attention or when you aren’t physically in the building.”

Even being in the classroom can leave students feeling isolated between the barriers of masks, separated desks, and half their peers online. The consistent 20-degree weather doesn’t help promote connectedness either. “I definitely feel like winter is affecting [my mood] because my parents were more willing to let me hang out with people outside. I would go for a lot more walks,” Bee said. 

However, students have learned to take advantage of technology to connect over the past months. “It’s definitely harder because I can barely do anything with my friends outside of school, but I have texted and FaceTimed with them a lot,” Alex Thole ‘24 said. Bee has strived to stay connected through the use of the internet too. “Clubs definitely make it easier to stay in touch with people because a lot of them are very adaptive to online stuff,” Bee said. She also stated that she was “Very grateful for social media” for its ability to aid in staying in-touch with friends.

Among all the chaos, students stay hopeful for the future. When asked “what they were looking forward to” all their answers centered around the same subject, connectedness. “Being able to see my friends normally and hang out,” Flermoen said. “Do[ing] the things with my friends I’m normally able to do and being able to have normal interactions with people,” Thole. “I am going to be a camp counselor for 9 weeks [this summer],” Bee. “Not wearing a mask, when things don’t get canceled thanks to COVID, and not worrying about social distancing,” Lam. Genuine human interaction. That seems to be what the pandemic has deprived us of the most, and what we can’t wait for again. The idea of being with others again is what is keeping the students going.