With winter break coming to a close, and the second semester starting up, it’s become apparent that I don’t feel much like a “BHS student” anymore. Sure, I’m a student, but I have never felt more disconnected from my learning environment than right now. Although distance learning is creating this disconnect, very few changes can be made to compensate for it. We are feeling more burnt out from our computers than we ever have in the past. For a full day everyone is forced to look at a screen for hours at a time, and be glued to the world inside their computers, because they are unable to go outside. As a result of this, I don’t feel motivated to participate in virtual spirit days and virtual rallies. I’m barely even motivated to do school itself. If we want to attempt school-wide connection, we have to first address the burnout problem that’s plaguing many students this school year.
Considering this, I see virtual events and spirit weeks as more school work. The way these events are advertised can make them feel like an assignment, rather than a fun activity. Emails, while a relatively easy and accessible way to contact students en masse, look like your average homework notification. This creates a mentality that these events are just homework, and the high frequency of emails sent can actually turn students away from even considering to participate. It also becomes a chore to sift through so many email notifications to the point where even if you feel like participating, it can be a difficult task to find what you’re looking for.
With the removal of asynchronous Wednesdays in the spring semester, students are not given much choice when it comes to learning at their own pace virtually. It overwhelms us because it makes us feel like we’re at odds with not only our environment because of COVID-19, but also the administration. We shouldn’t feel like administration is working against us; we should be on the same team, but right now it feels like we are getting further and further away from that. Because we feel like the school schedule is not supportive of our needs , it’s difficult to feel connected to it or feel motivated to try to form a connection. Before we start attempting to connect students to school, we need to find a way to combat student burnout and bring the school back onto the side of the students.
I don’t think bringing back asynchronous Wednesdays is necessary for this to work. Maybe the administration could allow for more dedicated individual work time on a normal day, so we can take the time to work at our own pace, or even take a break. This would allow students who are overwhelmed to feel heard. This idea could at the very least remedy burnout, and in turn, students would feel more motivated to participate in school wide events.
It is also just generally harder to communicate with each other through our school emails, due to the district disabling Google Hangouts. If the district doesn’t feel comfortable reintroducing the messaging system, maybe allow for more online get-togethers with peers through Zoom. This could allow students to speak to their friends on a weekly basis, and help us stay connected through difficult times. Maybe even dedicate time to an announcement period, so we can get rid of the homework-like emails, and instead have a much more engaging way to learn about what exactly is happening the coming week.
Although we are further apart than ever before, I don’t think it’s impossible to connect Burlingame students. While it is difficult to fix the burnout students are experiencing, connecting students simply requires a new approach, adapted to our online environment. If we work together to remedy the issue, we will create an environment in which people want to be connected to their school and begin to participate in events again.