What’s it Like to Learn from Home? A Middle School View

One of the ways I’ve investigated how our district’s distance learning plan is working is by talking directly with students from around the district. Let me share what I learned from Kai Mattern, a 7th grade student at Eyer:

When do you do your schoolwork, now that you have to do it all from home? How much time does it take?
I always do my homework in the morning and our teachers recommend spreading it out for the week. I usually take 30-45 minutes each morning. Sometimes I only take around 15 minutes because I can finish it so fast. I feel like they give us more work than we would have at school but we have the whole week to do it. It is all pretty easy too.

Do your parents help you with your schoolwork?
Not necessarily. Sometimes they help me find work that I can’t find but they don’t help me with the problems. My parents are working most of the time anyway.

What do you like most about doing your schoolwork from home?
I like being able to have the whole week to finish it. It is all pretty easy but it can also be repetitive.

What is the coolest or most interesting assignment you’ve done from home?
In communications class, we had to make advertisements about a product of our choice. I chose Nike. I chose to make an endorsement ad as my ad technique, but there were many options.

What is the hardest thing about doing your schoolwork from home?
The hardest thing about doing school work from home is time management. I do pretty well at it but sometimes I get distracted and forget about it. If I forget about it, I usually remember it by Friday or the next day. I always get my work done but sometimes I stress that I forgot something even if I didn’t.

What is it like to not be able to see your school friends while the schools are closed?
I still chat with my friends on Snapchat sometimes but I wish we could go play outside or something. I wish social distancing would be over already because I want to be able to hang out with my friends, and go play soccer. I still play soccer in my backyard sometimes, but I miss having training and games with my soccer team. Some people don’t care about social distancing and they play with their friends. I don’t live in a neighborhood,so I can’t just go outside and see any of my friends. School was when I saw most of my friends so I wish I could go back to school already.

How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t working on schoolwork?
I am usually on the PS4 and I do exercise and soccer sometimes. I do bike rides too, and my family loves to go for hikes. Every day I try to get some exercise in but sometimes I’m just not feeling it. It’s really hard to get motivated to go outside and do something during this time.

What else do you want to share about your experience (or feelings) of doing school from home?
I am ready to go back to school. I think most kids are. Sure, I liked having the break for awhile but,life has gotten boring. Everything is repetitive: schoolwork, exercise, screen time, sleep and so on. My parents are always waking me up because they have Zoom meetings in the morning, but I’ve adjusted.

One of the things I learned from speaking to Kai was the important role our schools play in creating human connections between students. Such connections play an important role in education, of course, but are also important to mental health. Such human connection is hard to replicate in distance learning, particularly for kids this age.

If you are interested in hearing other student voices, check out my conversation yesterday with 4th grader from Lincoln Elementary. Tomorrow, I’ll post an essay by an Emmaus High School student on this same topic.

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