Young people and COVID-19: School students

Our readers share their thoughts and experiences on life in lockdown and how it has impacted on their school days

Written by spunout


Recently, we ask our readers to share their experiences of life in lockdown. Young people’s lives have been turned upside down during this crisis, with schools and colleges closing, and many young people losing jobs. As part of a project with the Irish Examiner, we wanted to highlight these stories and give a voice to young people in Ireland learning to cope in this new situation. 

Below, you can read what our readers have to say about the impact of COVID-19 on their time in school. 

Young people share their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic

Eimer, 17, Cork

On March 12th when the schools closed, it felt like I was in the midst of some apocalyptic disaster film. A few weeks since then, I’ve been trying to establish a basic routine with schoolwork, face calls with friends and a little exercise. Having some consistency, has kept me more focused and I’ve somewhat adapted to this new normal. This is an anxious time, some days are better than others so I’ve been conscious of upping my self care and doing things I enjoy, like baking, reading, playing boardgames and (surprise) watching Netflix. We ring my little cousins in Kildare and Mallow, as well as my Nan who is cocooning almost every day.  I think there is a lot of pressure to be productive and to accomplish all those goals we have been putting off because we didn’t have the time. Sure Shakespeare wrote King Lear whilst in quarantine, surely you can bake some banana bread?! My world has been shaken up, I count changing out of my pyjamas as an accomplishment some days! I try and remember how lucky I am, both of my parents are working from home, I’m not in an exam year, none of my close family or friends have the coronavirus. 

Eoin, 19, Dublin

It’s been pretty grim. I’ve been very isolated over the last number of weeks having been at home since the closure of schools. As I live rurally there’s very little to do and it’s been a challenge to stay motivated to keep doing my college work and indeed it’s a challenge to stay focused. I’ve fallen behind in some of my modules and have spent many late nights working up until 2 or 3am to get stuff done.

Adam, 17, Monaghan

When this period of social distancing first began, I found it trivial and I took it as a time off school to relax and not do anything. This mindset had a huge impact on my productivity and mental health as I spent most of my day in bed and or consuming media. This led to me falling behind in school work rapidly, and I knew I would have to do something about it. After a few unproductive weeks, I decided to put together a schedule for myself. This alone improved my productivity and happiness tenfold, so much so that I wrote an article about how it helped me structure my days and get ahead of my schoolwork. However, after a couple of days, I found that rigidly scheduling my days was unsustainable and led to my inevitable burnout. I was back in a rut and I had to figure my way out again. To combat this awful feeling of going nowhere I decided to sign myself up for some online events and this forced me to be up earlier and engage with other people and I benefited greatly from these interactions. This then set me up for better, more active days. This time I continued to incorporate human interactions into my day by video calling my friends regularly. To improve my days I also started taking daily walks and runs to keep me healthy and improve my mood. The extra exercise along with eating healthier contributed to a better sleep schedule which in turn increased my energy for the day ahead. So while my time in lockdown began with a lot of unproductive weeks I eventually learned to adapt to this new lifestyle with a great deal of work and effort! 

Sarah, 17, Wicklow

Since the lockdown started, my daily routine has been mostly made up of taking super long walks and video calling friends until very late at night. It’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of health – I’m eating much better and getting lots of exercise since there’s more time, but I’m also getting very little sleep due to stress. As a fifth year student, I think school is way easier at the moment than it was before the pandemic – since there are no classes there’s more time to get work done so I don’t end up having to do school all day, it only takes a few hours. I have much more time to do other stuff during school days now, like reading and cooking proper meals to eat. It’s great having so much freedom over how and when to do the work. 

Zoe, 17, Dublin

I am finding this lockdown really hard. I don’t seem to get a break from schoolwork. In the past couple of days I’ve felt really upset because I just want to go back to school. I know that’s not possible at this time but going to school is far easier than online school in an academic sense, and in a mental/emotional sense. I really think teachers need to slow down on the amount of work they are giving their students. I know they have to get a certain amount done by the end of the year, but they have to think of the mental state of their students as well.

Anastasiya, 17, Dublin

To describe it in one word, hectic. Everything is just all over the place. And you would think after 40 odd days you’d settle into a routine, get used to it, and make sense of it all. But instead I find myself waking up every morning back at what feels like square one. The more time goes by the harder it is to believe this is our reality, how long will this last and when will I hear the joyous words of the Leaving Cert being cancelled. Every time, I am sucked back into reality. Facing my teachers demanding homework because they posted something on Google classroom. My mom screaming about 50 house chores I haven’t done and my sister tempting me with another movie to watch instead of studying. How am I supposed to balance my schedule with the teachers, two incompatible things but apparently with the same goal. What is this all for? To sit an exam so that the system can tell me if I’m good enough to get my course. To get a grade that will define my future and set me on a path. Or I lose my UK offers because we postponed the Leaving Cert and there’s nothing I can do about it. I replay these images over and over with little people to snap me back and put me on track. I have 3 possible outcomes. I fail because it is difficult to concentrate for another 100 days leading up to the exams. Option 2 I get into a college in Ireland. Or number 3 I get into the UK uni, but how will this one come true, right now it’s impossible. The window is closing fast, it’s slipping through my fingers and it’s all in the Irish education systems hands. What will my fate be? Will we even survive this pandemic and be able to go to college? A never ending train of thoughts filling my mind, and boom another day goes by. What have I achieved? More stress, more crying and more suspense waiting for something, but I’ve no idea what it is.

Omo, 17, Dublin

Personally COVID-19 was the best thing to happen for me. I was heavily stressed juggling school work, and my social life. It was all just caving in on top of each other, with assignments due all over the place. Now I I have time for myself to think, and improve my mental and physical health. I have time to exercise at home, learn how to make new dishes, make stronger bonds with the family. I didn’t have this before because I was always out, or locked in my room studying or doing homework. With the weather being so good out, I make workout videos for my friends and others to do as well. It is best to stay positive at times like this and just hope for it to be over soon.

Gemma, 17, Cork

I’ve been at home now for well over a month, and haven’t seen any of my friends in person since the schools closed. I’m quite introverted and coping with the alone time isn’t as difficult for me as it would be for others. Akthough, I do still miss having in-person conversations at lunchtimes and between classes. I miss the random friendly hugs. Video calls just aren’t the same. One friend had to cancel her 18th, which we were all looking forward to, and another friend is having a birthday soon. I’ve been trying my best to get up early and do schoolwork, as I’m in fifth year and need to get work done for next year. There’s a lot of talk about the current Leaving Certs, which is understandable, but no-one seems to think about the year behind them who is undoubtedly going to be affected. While they had almost all of their course already covered when the schools closed, we were still trying to get projects done before the end of fifth year, so we would have more time to revise next year. It doesn’t seem like we’ll get as much done as we’d hoped to. Covering new material online is difficult, as teachers have various levels of skill when it comes to operating things like Microsoft Teams. It seems possible that I mightn’t return to school until October, meaning we probably won’t get as much time to revise as other years. All of this is the cause of great stress and worry for me, maybe not every day, but most days.

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