Learning under Lockdown #2
6th former Matthew Els shares his experiences
Learning under lockdown is different. Our lives have changed dramatically. We all started off enjoying the downtime that the closure of schools brought, but for the Matric Class of 2020, the illusion that we had time to relax and unwind soon came to an abrupt end as we pondered over the year ahead and how we would manage to catch up.
Then came online learning …. a new phrase with new words such as Zoom in our daily vocabulary, where we were suddenly attending school in our pajamas and waking up much later than we normally would. We lost our fixed routine that school had entrenched in us for the last eleven years, and we were expected to learn in a very different way. We felt out of touch. Learning online under lockdown was not the same as being homeschooled – not by any means. When parents and students decide to homeschool, it’s a well-planned decision. What we are doing came with no training or planning – we had to navigate our way through uncharted waters at short notice, which undoubtedly was stressful and overwhelming to learners, parents and teachers alike. But it was essential, and we all knew it. I knew it. How fortunate I was to live in an age where online learning was possible and having the privilege of being taught by dedicated teachers who were willing to make this work, and having the resources at home to participate and take advantage of what was now on offer.
Am I at school from 7:30 am to 2:00 pm? No. Am I at home working at my desk or online all that time? No. Do I sometimes get out of bed after 9:00 am? Yes. Have my parents been persistently bugging me and asking whether I had handed something in? Yes. Have they asked if I am studying enough? Yes. Have they asked if I saw the emails they were sent by the teachers? Yes. Have I found myself needing to de-stress during the day, just to go outside and do something different? Yes. Just taking some time to shoot some hoops or mess with my sister was a good stress relief. But I eventually fell into a new schedule, doing exercise mid-morning, catching up over weekends, learning on Friday nights, finishing projects at odd hours, just studying at times that better suited me and my mental state. It has been a bit upside down, but somehow it has worked for me.
But school is not just about education. Yes, it is the main reason we go to school but the routines and bonds we make at school form part of who we are, and under lockdown that part of who we are was missing. No sports, no uniforms, no detentions, no horseplay, no vibe, no bells to help structure our day, no jokes, no chatting about nonsense, no “zarms” at tea-break, no matric privileges. It is different.
There is no doubt that the pandemic is stress-inducing – particularly if you focus on the news and statistics. For some, it has been totally overwhelming. In attempting to cope I would suggest that you not isolate yourself. Do not rely on social media for facts. Video call your friends and family – carry on talking about the things you normally would with them at tea breaks and after school. Make sure you keep eating healthy and keep your water intake up. Exercise to reduce stress. Try stick to a fixed routine as much as possible, even if it’s an upside-down one. Minimise distractions as much as possible. Structure your learning with 40-minute study slots with five-minute breaks in-between. Do not panic and stress about the long term as it will just make you less productive. Rather focus on staying healthy and the short-term tasks you have been given by the teachers. Work at a desk and not in your bed or on the couch. My best decision was to do all my schoolwork at one desk as if it were my school desk. It is your job to make sure you spend your day doing a variety of subjects and not you just focus on one subject the whole time – this is where I first went wrong as I spent too much time on the subjects I enjoyed and too little on the ones I didn’t enjoy that much.
We are College boys and we must not forget that. Do not try to do it on your own – remember we are all in this together and are all going through the same struggles and difficulties. We are all human and change is almost always hard. Figuring out what works best for you takes time and often first requires finding out what doesn’t work and then adapting and changing to best suit you and what you require to study and learn. Expect to experiment and make mistakes and reorder your schedule – perhaps many times over. Remember this is our final year and we need to make the best of it, even if it’s going to be nothing how we imagined.
We have just heard that school for us matrics will be opening again from 1st June. This will be a relief for some, but more stressful for others who live with the elderly or people at high risk of complications if they contract the disease. Let’s hope South Africa is not doing this too soon. Online learning has its place and isn’t that bad once you get used to it. I wouldn’t mind continuing online learning until after South Africa reaches its peak number of COVID-19 cases to help flatten the curve.