May 5, 2020

More Than Just a Building: Getting By When School Supports Shift

By Bellamy Heaton

This post is the second in our Education at a Distance series, centering the voices of students, parents, and educators during the COVID-19 crisis. 

High school students aren’t just struggling with COVID-19 in a vacuum; our families, teachers, and communities, as a whole, are dealing with something quite scary. As we work together to fight this pandemic, the need to stay home has taken away jobs, school, vacations, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities—and replaced them with new responsibilities. For me, that means helping care for my family and learning to care for myself without the daily support of my advisors and social workers. 

I am one of many students taking on the responsibility of caring for parents and elderly family during COVID-19.

There are five of us in my small house: my mother, who teaches from home; my family friend, who works from home; my brother and me, both in high school, who are learning from home; and my mom, who is unable to work at all due to her declining health. I am seventeen. I am a junior at Avalon School. And I am one of many students taking on the responsibility of caring for parents and elderly family during COVID-19. I am realizing what responsibilities I am gaining during the pandemic, as well as all the emotions and anxiety that come with it. And I’m experiencing these changes while adjusting to being home with my family every day and no longer seeing friends, peers, teachers, and support systems.

Missing People Means Missing Support Systems

I am an extrovert. I am also a teen who has severe anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. And being away from my peers, sports, and school greatly affects how I am feeling.

I’m not just missing people; I’m missing the people and systems that help me get through the day. I am an extrovert. I am also a teen who has severe anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. And being away from my peers, sports, and school greatly affects how I am feeling. Being out exploring the world with my friends and relatives brings me pure joy; people help ground me, and being with them is truly one of the best things for me. 

For many of us, all therapy has been canceled, and treatment centers are closed. I’m struggling and have connected with other peers who are as well, because our support systems and safe places inaccessible due to the virus. Some days, I feel unmotivated and quite hopeless when it comes to distance learning and my daily life. 

Transition to Distance Learning

As students, we have to hold ourselves accountable for schoolwork. I am lucky to have a school that is project-based and quite independent when it comes to learning. And in many ways, I am used to having control over my learning every day, whether it be at school or from home. Yet, for many students, even me some days, it’s been a difficult transition. I have had days where I have to fight, push myself to complete my class assignments, and remind myself that I must keep pushing myself to get through these uncertain times. 

I have had days where I have to fight, push myself to complete my class assignments, and remind myself that I must keep pushing myself to get through these uncertain times. 

Distance learning is hard. And how successful I am really depends on the day. Some days, I don’t have the time I need—given the circumstances we’re in and taking care of those around me.

On bad days, I focus on taking care of myself physically and mentally. I keep myself in shape. I practice yoga or stretching. And I use skills such as breathing exercises or art therapy. It has helped to push my boundaries, finding ways to ground myself and to overcome the emotions that hit me on particularly difficult days. 

Finding Support

I am grateful to have the support of my peers and the ability to reach out and help them when they have hard days. I am beyond amazed at how communities are coming together to help those who are struggling with health, food, money, and safety during this time. I Have friends who are sewing masks to donate to people, and my family has helped with shopping for our elderly friends who are at high risk for COVID-19.

I know that despite what the world is throwing at us, we can stay positive and strong.

We are all fighting our own battles right now, and I hope we can continue to help those who are in need—whether that means shopping for those who need food or finding ways to make someone’s day a little better. A big thing that I do to help make daily life for my neighbors better is creating elaborate and colorful chalk art of Disney characters on my sidewalk. I enjoy seeing people smile and taking pictures of my art. Because I know that when they see my drawings, it makes them happy. I know that despite what the world is throwing at us, we can stay positive and strong.

Despite losing so much, we are working to keep people who are ill and can not fight off COVID-19, such as my mom, safe. I am beyond amazed at how hard we as a world are working to fight this pandemic. Know that your struggles during this time are valid. Many students are in the same boat as I am when it comes to the changes and responsibilities, and we will get through this together.

EdAllies seeks to elevate diverse voices and foster a candid dialogue about education. While we provide our blog as a platform for EdVoices and other guest contributors, the views and opinions they express are solely their own.