Open Letter from a High School Student - "My ability to learn and grow was stolen from me"

A young woman in the Rochester community wrote this open letter that has already received hundreds of likes and comments on our Facebook group. With her permission, we are sharing it publicly so it can be shared far and wide. She is a young woman who so eloquently put into words how so many of our youth are feeling. They feel like they have no voice. They need to be heard. We need to understand the impact the decisions to keep schools closed is having on our children. STOP PLAYING GAMES WITH OUR CHILDREN!

Thank you Autumn! We will continue to fight for your right to the education you deserve!

Hi!!! I would like to voice my opinion and speak out for students currently (high-schoolers especially). I understand that everyone is trying to do the right thing when it comes to keeping students and staff safe during school and taking the right precautions. With that being said, I would like to voice out my opinion that many teens can agree with. Remote learning, hybrid learning, online school, whatever you may call it, is a very tricky thing to manage and deal with. Us students who have never been homeschooled or done the online homeschool, this is not something we can easily learn from.

Us teenagers don’t automatically wake up with motivation and think to ourselves “I can’t wait to get my online school done!”. Our motivation to learn comes from going to school and seeing our friends and our teachers. Our motivation comes from knowing that no matter how bad my day is or was, I always have someone to talk to and laugh with at school. That’s not something we need only 2 or 3 days a week. That’s something we need all 5 days of the school week. I can’t speak for the younger students, but us high-schoolers can manage wearing masks all day, sanitizing every couple hours, having distanced lunch, or even staying in the same couple rooms all day. For us, going to school isn’t just about showing off our new “kicks”, it’s about seeing all the people we know care about us. With seeing friends and teachers every day, we get the motivation we need to learn. There is nothing more fun than playing Quizizz in class. You’re still learning and you also have the human connection that we need!

You can take our phones from us, sit us down at a table at home and force us to do the work, but we won’t grasp a single thing from it. The only reason we sit down at our desks and learn and enjoy it is because we have a fun human connection with teachers and peers. We are the future. I think we all can agree that we want a smart, successful future for the youth. If you want us to thrive in our adult lives, now is when it matters most. We need to succeed in high school, especially junior year, when colleges are looking at grades and applications. Our future college, career, and success all depend on high school. Grades are also what it comes down to. With online school, we aren't going to be prepared for regents or SATs like we would be if we were fully in school.

With that being said, sacrifices may have to be made. More protection may be necessary when going out to lower the chance of spreading COVID. Us teens probably shouldn't be partying every weekend to lower the chances of spreading COVID throughout the school. We all just want life to go back to our ”normal”.

I was telling my Dad this evening that through all these posts on Facebook, I haven't seen a single parent or adult inquire of our opinion. I don't know of many teens that will stand up and voice out a viewpoint on this so it might as well be me. We have our group chats and texts where we communicate our opinions on online learning but most of us are too scared to actually speak up because our opinions aren't always taken seriously because we're ”just children”.

Quarantine affected us all a great ton. That's not just teens, adults too. As a high school student, my sports got taken away, and I felt as if my ability to learn and grow was stolen from me. Not being able to see teachers and friends made us all sad. Sitting up in our rooms doing nothing was an amazing thing when we had school and a fun summer to depend on. Our days are still on a constant repeat and will continue to be if we aren't able to go back to school full time.

When we are physically in class, we are able to listen and share ideas and get together on projects. With online school, it is challenging to engage in conversation that embraces new thinking and awareness. There are obvious positives to online learning such as the ability to learn at your own pace and not feel rushed to learn something tricky. Although, it is very difficult to absorb a lesson fully when doing it online. In addition, our technology is always unpredictable. Our laptops break and crash all the time. The wifi is slow and crashes all the time. When we are at school, our teachers always have paper copies on back up. Technology is unreliable. We can all admit, teenagers are lazy. We are likely to procrastinate and that will lead to not getting work done. It doesn't matter how much you ground us or take our phones away, without the motivation from peers and teachers, we won't obtain a thing. With online school, it makes a feeling of isolation. Having a computer as your buddy can be scary. There aren't anymore whispers coming from the back of the room, no more smart remarks, and zero presence pleading for us to listen and do our work. The online school gives us a lot more freedom, more than we can handle really. Having to take online classes makes us responsible for our own learning. All online school is, is sharing knowledge and showing us tools and hoping we get it. There is a high chance you get too far behind and never catch up. I personally experienced that this past spring.

Whoever got this far, thank you for listening and I hope you at least take our opinions and feelings into consideration.

-Autumn R. (Junior at Spencerport High School)