Working it out: a look into student work ethic during distance learning

By Trey Phillips, Staff Reporter

America is currently living a new normal brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The rapid response of the T/E School Board started with the initiation of distance learning opportunities on March 18. Yet how do students feel about the new changes at Conestoga, and how have they affected students’ desire to learn?

“I remember hoping school would close for at least a week or two in March because taking action earlier would probably help us in the future,” sophomore Lavanya Ahluwalia said, “(but) I didn’t think—and I really don’t think anyone thought—that the situation would escalate this much.”

The abrupt changes that Conestoga was forced to make have left some students dazed but the hope is that students will be able to exercise self discipline and avoid the temptations. 

“The one thing I’d say some of us are struggling with is maintaining our schedules because there’s so many distractions at home. A real trend I’ve seen is people turning in their work late,” Ahluwalia said. “But there isn’t much that can be done about cheating.”

Staying motivated and staying on task is a struggle many have been facing head on. Yet history teacher Michael Palmatier remains optimistic about students’ chances for success and hopes for continued success in the future. 

“A friend of mine who teaches in another state said that we should expect a third of our kids to do everything and then more, a third to be semi-engaged while also spending time on their phones and outside interests, and a third to just check out,” Palmatier said. “Maybe in some ways, (distance learning) has enhanced a certain degree of self-directedness and independent motivation in some. It’s also been nice to see some step up as leaders, and some attend the office hours, but I wish more would drop in because I really miss that classroom connection and face-to-face contact.”

Though there is no way to measure this “rule of thirds” as Palmatier puts it, it’s impact can still be felt. Junior Tilmar Overbeck has his own observations on students’ reactions and ethics surrounding distance learning. 

“It has been all right; most teachers are decent with their workload with a few exceptions. Most of my friends are content to just be annoyed about the matter,” Overbeck said. “Though from what I’ve seen it’s a solid split in people who are doing the work and who aren’t.”

To address the divide Overbeck sees between those doing and not doing schoolwork—along with that between teachers and students and work given and work received—everyone is seeing the need to adapt and overcome. Guidance counselor and CCT teacher Rachel Reavy reflected on how students are handling work over distance learning and what’s being done to aid students.

“I think that most students are staying on top of their work and turning in assignments,” Reavy said. “There is a group that is having a hard time staying motivated to get work done because they feel disconnected.  Teachers are working with their departments to find ways to engage students to encourage them to keep working.”

Throughout quarantine, one of the greatest challenges students have faced is that of motivation, as in what keeps Conestoga running? Hope. Hope that tomorrow will be better than today. Hope that someday the world can return to normal, that this new normal will not become the normal. Hope for the sake of hope. Hope is what keeps Conestoga running.

“I hope that CHS gets the chance to see each other again soon and that everyone stays healthy,” Reavy said. “ I think that managing our stress levels and staying positive is the most important thing we can do as we finish the year in a different way.  Change is hard, but we can all adapt and continue the great things that we have set out to accomplish.”

Trey Phillips can be reached at [email protected]