What online school misses: how the pandemic stunts social growth2 min read


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Students living through the pandemic are missing out on parts of school life that reach far beyond the classroom.

Zoom meetings can still teach subjects like math and science but cannot replicate the feeling of group work.

Vivianne Enriquez, a 51-year-old teacher who works with children with special needs, said kids learn how to socialize in school.

“Friendships help children develop important life skills, such as learning to get along with other people and sorting out conflicts and problems,” Enriquez said.

For students in high school, missing out on events such as homecoming or prom can be especially disappointing. So can online graduation, 19-year-old Frank Nguyen remarked.

“It felt weird not being able to actually walk the stage in person,” said Nguyen, who graduated high school last year. “It felt like it ended too fast. I didn’t really get a sense of closure.”

Kevin Nguyen, 24, who recently received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Riverside, felt lucky to have been able to attend classes and graduate in person.

“Being a part of significant life events helps you grow as a person,” Nguyen said. “It’s during the times when you are away from your parents and on your own when you learn the most about yourself.”

Within the group of students who do have to experience remote learning, some are at a greater disadvantage than others.

“Children living in households where food is in short supply may lack access to the technology needed for distance learning compared with their peers,” Enriquez said.

This references research by the American Psychological Association, which finds that children with a lower socioeconomic status are less able to succeed online.

Amid this uncertainty, finding comfort in routine can restore a sense of normalcy.

For those with young kids, Enriquez suggests sectioning out days in 30 or 60 minute blocks and maintaining daily activities from before the pandemic. Ngyuen recommends a similar approach for older students.

“It’s good to keep yourself busy,” Nguyen said. “It’s nice to have something you feel in control of when everything around us can be so uncertain.”

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