This piece is part of “Dear Adult Leaders: #ListenToYouth,” a four-week series produced in collaboration with The 74 to elevate student voices in the national conversation as schools and districts navigate how to educate our country’s youth in a global pandemic. In this series, students write open letters to adult leaders and policymakers about their experiences and how, from their perspectives, the American education system should adapt. Read all the pieces in this series as they are published here. Read the The 74's other coverage of issues affecting young people here. This week’s letters focus on the issue of including youth in the decision-making process.
Dear Richard Vladovic, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education,
I am a sophomore in high school and a foster youth. My experience in foster care and having to move to multiple schools has prepared me for situations where I need to adapt to rapid changes in my environment. But even so, I was unprepared for the completely new way of learning that is expected of me during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students are having to adapt to new ways of learning, but what may not be clear is how online learning has affected our motivation to learn.
I strongly believe that finding motivation to learn online is an issue most students are facing, and I have seen firsthand how my peers and I are not as engaged as we were before the pandemic. I feel disconnected from my peers and teachers, which has led me to be less motivated to participate in class.
I entered the foster care system when I was eight years old. I have attended over seven schools, so I am familiar with changing environments and adapting to new learning.
While I do my best in navigating this new way of learning as a sophomore in high school, I feel that teachers and school leaders need to strategize how to keep students more engaged. I have three ideas for keeping students engaged that I’d like educators across the district to consider.
1. Principals and teachers should implement a session for students to talk about how the pandemic has affected our lives. This would help teachers become more aware of what should be reasonably expected from us.
2. Teachers should require students to turn on our cameras. This is important because as a student who struggles with focusing in class, having the option to have my camera shut off allows me to become distracted. It is very tempting to sleep, eat, or be on my cell phone because I know that the teacher and students cannot see me, which creates bad habits.
3. Teachers should provide more hands-on learning projects and new activities to keep us engaged instead of having tasks that require us to look at a screen for so long. My school has created a schedule that is shorter than our traditional class time, which is something I have found helpful, but our screen time is still extensive because assignments outside of class time must be done online as well.
It is through these measures that adult leaders can help all of us adapt to a rapidly changing learning environment, and ensure that the time and resources spent on education in this dynamic world are effective.
Alexa C. P., 15
Bell Gardens, California