Students, don’t go through the loophole of blaming teachers — it won’t do anything for your distance learning frustrations

Charis Lee

Dear Mr. Whitten,

I wish to inform you that in the more than three years I’ve been a student at Sunny Hills High School, this has been the hardest for me, academically, emotionally and mentally. You may be getting similar emails from other students or parents, too.

Yes, it’s the coronavirus pandemic. My parents have kept me home since mid-March, and the only ways I can have any social interaction is through a digital platform like Zoom, Google Meet or Facetime. I’ve found myself staying up until 3 a.m. playing virtual games with my friends because if it were not for that, I would end up feeling quite depressed and not being able to get out of my bed because of the lack of social interaction.

It also doesn’t help that my parents cannot afford to pay for the highest level of internet access.

So if you’re wondering what I’m writing to you about, let me get to the point now. You see, I’ve been an honors student since my freshman year; I have been getting straight A’s pretty much every semester since, too. But after the first progress report of the 2020-2021 school year, I got D’s and F’s for the first time from several of my academic teachers, including AP Economics, AP Literature and AP Calculus. 

My parents lectured me about my low grades, and here’s what I told them: I know that we have great teachers at Sunny Hills. They are very passionate about the subjects they teach, and they care about our success in their classes. Nevertheless, I feel they are to blame for my poor grades after the first month of the school year. 

Their main fault is that they haven’t put the brakes on the amount of assignments they’ve been giving out during distance learning 2.0. I feel they’re treating this semester like a normal one from the past, and so I have already been assigned a project for each class along with homework assignments every night that take twice as long to finish because either my WiFi keeps cutting out or I start getting depressed because I can’t even go outside to take a breath of fresh … or let me just describe it as COVID-19 or fire aftermath air.

So instead of spending my sleepless nights like I used to pre-pandemic working on my piles and piles of homework, I’ve found myself crying in my bed wondering why these teachers can’t be flexible and let me turn in my assignments late without any grade penalty.

“You signed up to be in this class, and so if you can’t handle completing assignments on time, how do you think you’ll do when you get to college?”

“If I gave you a break for this assignment, you’ll think I’m going to go easy on you the rest of the semester, and I just don’t want to set that kind of tone with my students.”

Those are the types of email responses my teachers would send me upon my email request asking for more time to complete my projects/assignments. I know not all Sunny Hills teachers may be like this, but I’m hoping that perhaps you can contact some of these AP/IB teachers and encourage them to consider our situation at home during the pandemic and to be more forgiving of our shortcomings and to back off on the piling on assignments.

I feel that if that were to happen in my situation, I would be able to raise my grades, and I would not feel so depressed about my poor grades and strict instructors. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and yes, I know you like to say, “You got this,” but I hope you know that in reality, I don’t “got” this, and I really need a lot of help from you so that I can get this fixed.

Sincerely,

A very stressed out student who’s crying as I’m typing this out on my tear-filled Chromebook keyboard.

Though the entirety of this fake email is not exactly accurate to my circumstances, it mirrors the majority of my senior friends and other students around me. Some of these students and their parents have desperately emailed their teachers with similar concerns as a cry for help.

However, students should not blame their shortcomings on teachers for piling on assignments during this distance-learning period, with the exception of students who are genuinely overwhelmed. Students ought not to make excuses using the COVID-19 crisis as a weapon for excuses in their favor to gain extra time or forgiveness from the teacher.

Though Internet connection failures are a new challenge students and teachers need to face, it’s a double-edged sword. Students who are not diligent with schoolwork tend to use this excuse as an advantage to skip classes or enter Zoom classes late.

Asking several graduated SH alumni, it seems as though their college professors are flexible and easy-going regarding their assignments and attendance. Professors are also providing asynchronous options for students who live in different time zones.

However, the SH alumnus mentioned how academic flexibility depends on the professor and the subject. One alumni in particular points out that her professors, who teach social issues and psychology, are caring and more focused on individuals since they understand the importance of a student’s mental health. Though she’s also heard from her peers that stem majors aren’t as forgiving.

If college professors are moderating their itineraries, why not ease the workload and spare the psychological, emotional, and even sociological, burden on students? 

Based on a poll with 98 students, 80% of students felt overwhelmed by tests, quizzes and homework assignments. 12% felt no burden at all since their classes are easy-going and 8% were not burdened but felt they are on the edge of becoming overwhelmed. 

One student stressed that they’ve become more focused on turning in assignments to Google Classroom, instead of studying the actual material for exams. 

Other students point out that the increase of assignments also increases their screen time, causing headaches from staring at their screens and also from attempting to manage multiple classes with their workload. 

Though teachers are not the source of all the stress from school or at home, they certainly are a huge factor in our academic success and experiences. 

Getting breaks in AP, IB, or honors classes would not be a complete misrepresentation of what awaits students in college, but the workload is still effective practice for the independence students will encounter.