The Hidden Heroes of the Pandemic

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Okay, so maybe we are a bit biased at Charitybomb since we are literally HERE for the kids, but we wanted to take a moment to give some real credit to those we believe are the unsung heroes of the pandemic- the students of our country.  Here in my area of Illinois, and in many parts of the country, students, including my own 3 teenagers, have not seen the inside of a real classroom since March.  We are now in the middle of December.  I can barely wrap my head around that fact and what that would have meant for me at their age.  To some this may seem like an ok thing.. They are safe and in the comforts of their own home, learning the same lessons but just online, right? Um, no.  I have had a unique view into what this pandemic looks like on all sides of the screen for students, teachers,  and parents- and it’s less than ideal. 

To be clear, we don’t have the solutions and are not judging the decisions that have been made by the school districts or government. The priority will always be to keep kids safe and healthy-both physically and mentally.   Let’s also recognize that every single one of us has been some kind of hero this year, and of course this time has caused us to be so thankful for all we have more than ever. However, when we talk about all the heroes of the past year, we hear a lot about the adults who are holding things together.  Unless you are young and your main communication is through Insta or Tik Tok, most of us are not hearing about all of this from the kids’ perspectives. 

I was guilty at first telling my own kids that this isn’t that hard. Just log in and do the work!  But here’s what I realized being on the other end as a teacher: This is freakin’ hard!! Kids were not built to be little business people; focusing on meetings all day, keeping track of different projects and due dates, finding their own motivation without peers or teachers in person to push them along,  and all with the distractions of home at their fingertips. 

We can certainly all do hard things, but this is the toughest of tough and in “kid time”, this must feel like it’s never-ending. For some of these kids,  they are missing their only outlet for depression or angst. This may normally come in the form of a trusted teacher, an organized school sport or the potential to make a much needed new friend.  Here are some of things I am seeing as a parent and substitute teacher. 

  • I see my own good students losing their motivation for school, quitting their instruments, sleeping through classes, not participating in class discussions or even turning on their screens. 
  • As a remote teacher last week, I only saw student show their face on the screen for 3 straight days. Not one student even sent me a chat during our zoom class time together. All were logged in with screens off. I noticed that after 3 days, only 2 students out of 30 submitted even one assignment. 
  • In a school outside my own district, students finally came to school for a couple of weeks only to be sent back home soon after. One showed up when in person learning was available and announced “Hi. I’m a real person” . I almost cried on the spot because I got it! This virtual world makes us feel invisible. 
  • I’ve seen students with very tough home lives having to find their own motivation to log in to online school while taking care of other children in the home.
  • I see special needs kids who do not have the focus or patience to sit in front of a screen all day and whose parents can not be expected to sit next to them all day while also working from home
  • I hear kids saying “I’m so tired of this. There’s nothing to look forward to. ”
  • I see already anxious kids becoming so anxious that they barely want to leave their own rooms anymore even if they finally get the chance to finally do something engaging. 

Our hope is for kids to hang on and to remember that this is not permanent and to dig deep to get through this tough chapter in their lives and be ready for better days. This is really just a chapter in our long story.  

So, to the small children who are just too wiggly for online learning and miss learning through play, and to the high schoolers who are feeling too awkward to share their screens who are missing out on homecoming, prom, and just plain social interaction, WE SEE YOU. We salute you.   Keep going.  Keep trying your best. Know you are not alone and that the adults around you are having a tough time too. Try every day to make a real connection. Be open with your feelings and remember it’s okay to not always be perfect or to feel wonderful. Remember that humans are inherently good. We will find a solution to this and you will be the strongest generation in decades.

Try your best to be nice to your parents and teachers. This isn’t their fault.  They love you and want this end. This is the fault of the pandemic. Also, remember you are a real person!!! You are a real and amazing person!

To find out more about our initiatives to support Gen Z social and emotional learning , go here