Op-Ed: Punahou Flexes in Response to Distance Learning Distress

Elsa+Kronen+%2720+studies+at+home+during+fourth+quarter+distance+learning

Elsa Kronen ’20 studies at home during fourth quarter distance learning

 

The cancellation of many anticipated end-of-school celebrations, coupled with the continuation of every student’s least favorite part of school (homework), and the start of distance learning has many students feeling frustrated and infuriated, prompting them to lash out at the school with their complaints. However, in this difficult time, the school has done a good job of crafting a whole new learning plan while being flexible to adapt to the wants and needs of its students. 

On April 16th, the administration announced that all Academy assignments were to be due at 5:00 pm. Dr. Mingarelli, Academy Assistant Principal, explained the reasoning behind this decision stating, “We received a lot of feedback from students that varying deadlines throughout the day and night were hard to keep track [of]… which led us to decide that we needed a universal deadline.”

The administration thought that the 5:00 pm deadline would be beneficial to students as it would allow them to wrap up their assignments during the day and not have to work at night. “We hoped students would embrace the opportunity to plan a day or two ahead and be done with each day of school work by 5:00 pm, which we believed could contribute to feelings of reduced stress and anxiety,” Dr. Mingarelli remarked, “With wellness as a guiding principle it simply did not feel right for the school to endorse a deadline for assignments at midnight.”

However, this deadline did not help to reduce stress or anxiety and instead caused many students to become more stressed. Because students can’t learn in class, they have to learn all the information by themselves at home, which tends to take significantly longer, and have to complete homework for all their classes before 5:00 pm. This early deadline causes many students to have to make the decision between turning in a mediocre assignment on time or turning in a thoroughly complete assignment late. 

“Many teenagers are productive at night because we are used to staying up late. The earlier deadline won’t make us go to bed any earlier. Since we normally stay up late and wake up late, we don’t have much time before five to get everything done,” Mallory Meister ’20. 

The schedule was implemented to help students establish a daily routine, but it actually disrupted the routine that many were used to. During the school year students usually have a day of school, followed by extracurricular activities, and then they usually don’t get home to start their homework until about 7:00 pm. It was hard for many students to adjust to learning at home but changing up their whole schedule made it even more difficult. 

Joshua Yamafuji ’20 explained how his daily routine was disrupted saying, “I’m irritated with the five pm deadline because I normally work out from three to five and so if things are due at five I need to have them done before I work out at three which is not enough time for me. Now I have to finish all my work before five and eat dinner which means I can’t work out until night which limits my options.”

Lastly, many students struggle with the technology capabilities at home. With multiple family members in the house having meetings on zoom or watching presentations during the day, there is often not enough bandwidth for students to complete online assignments until the evening when their parents are off their work calls and online activity dies down. 

In light of these complaints from students, the administration has decided to change the deadline to 9:00 pm starting Monday, May 11th. Dr. Mingarelli commented on the change saying, “It is always important to us to use data to make decisions.  The results of the 2nd student survey made abundantly clear that the students would prefer that we switch the deadline to 9:00 pm, so we did.”

Punahou should be praised for staying connected to student sentiment on this issue even though the students and administration are now physically distant. However, the challenges of distance learning will only continue. Final exams lay ahead, and so do important end-of-year celebrations, such as graduation. The psychosocial stressors of isolation from the usual social matrix of friends and sports exacerbate student anxiety and the administration will need to stay nimble to respond. Stay in tune, Punahou, your work is far from over.