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Students' perspectives on coping with COVID-19

09 September 2020

This year has presented unexpected challenges for schools especially for students in Year 12, seeing a vastly different future for themselves. Crises help focus in us an understanding of what really matters. Here, some Year 12 students from Saint Ignatius’ College in Adelaide share a range of lessons learnt and opportunities for growth in this unusual time. They realise South Australia has been much less affected than many other places and feel greatly for those who have so much more to endure with their ongoing isolation.

We are the class of 2020 that lived through the COVID pandemic. We are the survivors of 2020 – Year of hard times and places. We know we will miss out on some markers and privileges that come with Year 12, and that many ‘lasts’ and milestones such as formals, prize giving, and graduation will be different. We miss social events such as 18th birthdays, not being able to participate in sport and music and drama, or other school events because these bring joy and provide a sense of connection and community.

We learnt to look beyond our self and our entitlements. We learnt to reflect on what has been positive about coping with changes rather than focusing on what we are missing out on. We learnt to look at an event on its own merits and celebrate it as well as we are able. We learnt to be grateful and joyful for what we have, rather than aggrieved and self-pitying for what we do not. We can choose to find happiness and form community rather than perseverate resentfully on missing out. We learnt to see reality as it is, not as we wish it to be.

We understood that school leadership has been different for us and we had to adapt and lead in a time of crisis. We learnt to be flexible, to adapt to changes, to look out for others, to share, etc.

We learnt online learning which allowed for more freedom with learning, to pace learning and self-manage time. We realised the opportunity and capacity of technology, and of the importance of face-to-face interactions. We had a renewed appreciation for human connection, of being together with friends, and of being able to talk face to face with a teacher. We learnt tolerance as teachers and students developed proficiency with remote learning.

We need to consider different options for tertiary study and career opportunities. We avoided complacency as Universities indicated they would be lenient in grading acceptances. We realise the changes to society and our economy will affect further education and career prospects.

Taking care of ourselves

We understand more about good hygiene, physical distancing, taking care if unwell, infection spread, contact tracing, and self-isolation. We appreciated we are protecting the common good by complying with health guidelines and travel restrictions, with everyone trying to do their best. We remembered this is a temporary period of isolation and our vigilance and effort now helps others. We accept this may be the ‘normal’ until there are solutions – e.g. vaccines, improved treatments – but we have faith that better times will come.  

We learnt that physical isolation is not social isolation, and spatial distance is not necessarily social distance. We saw courage and kindness amongst those affected, political and health leaders, frontline workers, police and defence, and others.

We pushed ourselves beyond what we thought we could do as we took on such an unexpected journey. We found ways to keep socially connected and emotionally healthy. We learnt to make the most of what we have, since even the best laid plans can never account for what may happen. We grew in character, resilience, and faith. We learnt to adjust to fulfil the same purpose. We focused more on why we do things and found other ways of achieving that.

We learnt new skills for life as we had to readjust so many things so unexpectedly. We learnt unexpected change can be good. We grew in patience and adaptability. We learnt to innovate and accept that things can change quickly. We learnt to keep control and have a sense of accomplishment. We learnt skills to lead us through tough times, e.g. how to be peaceful, purposeful, proactive. We learnt about intentional planning and not just going with a flow that sometimes leaves you disorientated. We developed skills in purpose-building, finding hope, boosting morale and looking after the emotional wellbeing of others.

Our families and other relationships

We realise more about what we love and how we love. We had a new appreciation of home and time with family. We learnt about Importance of family and support. We experienced the joy of family and of spending time together. We rediscovered family time and activities. We appreciated the little things in life like sharing a meal or spending time with family.

We have been encouraged to reach out and take care of each other. We cherish friendships more because we realise how pivotal they are in our life. We stayed connected with friends and family through social media and in other ways and put more effort into quality relating because the lack of face to face interaction helped us realise how important are our relationships. We appreciated how much is communicated via social media and how difficult it is to assess how someone was coping, to determine mood over a text message.

We found ways to help each other overcome fears. We appreciated that people react differently; some are afraid and exhausted, some irritable and aggressive, some overcome and withdrawn, some passive and dependent.

Care of others

We learnt to look after the world and care for each other in new ways. We have a deeper understanding of the common good and human solidarity. We appreciate this is impacting the lives and livelihoods of so many around Australia and the world. We are learning to overcome the temptation to believe that someone else will fix it.

We were reminded that disadvantage adds to disadvantage, that Black Lives Matter and many are marginalised, and that COVID affects poorer, densely populated places in Asia and South America who have less ability to cope, people await serious medical procedures, there are uncertainties as to unemployment, the prospects for those seeking refuge and asylum seekers are dire. While we feel fortunate not to be as affected as many other states and countries, we know this is a call to action for justice.

We were provided with new opportunities to serve and see the need in our local and global community. We collected warm clothes for the homeless, health care packs for Timor, books for others who were disadvantaged. We tried to help those who are isolated at this time without others to support them. We wrote letters to elderly folks who may feel more isolated than we do. We sent cards to homeless people and asylum seekers to reach out and say, ‘Hello, I am a year 12 student, I hope you are staying really safe in this difficult time.’

Slowing down and finding hope

We learnt to make the most of now, to not worry about the future or regret the past quite so much. We put some things into perspective, reminding us of the insignificance of many superficial problems, and the meaning of more important activities. We learnt to appreciate the small things in life more, a walk outside, a trip to the supermarket, etc. We learnt the value of balance and of new routines for study, work, exercise, nutrition and sleep.

We were gifted with time to push the pause button, reflect, catch up, and plan. We learnt about hobbies, some began a project, learned to cook, garden, and paint. We learned to go on hikes and walks as an alternative to team sport or school co-curricular. We tried to keep active, even if we were not in the mood. We understand better about living in the moment. We practised mindful meditations. and found peace. We allowed the good spirit to be in our heart rather than a messy spirit. We did gratitude exercises and became aware of what we do have and the many good people in our lives

We believe there is light at the end of the tunnel and try to imagine what things could look like on the other side of the crisis. We seek to look to the light rather than the shadows. We understand that the rebuilding of communities takes time. We learnt to be kind on ourselves. We found sources of joy and hope in our shared humanity and faith. We found that our faith in God and humanity helped us through. We recognised that a religious intuition, and spirituality, is a great gift.

Thursday 10 September is RUOK Day. Got a feeling that someone you know or care about it isn’t behaving as they normally would? Perhaps they seem out of sorts? More agitated or withdrawn? Or they’re just not themselves. By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up. If they say they are not ok, you can follow our conversation steps to show them they’re supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load. Find out more here.

 

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