Roar: The Podcast | Episode 2: Distance learning’s impact on students


Roar: The Podcast | Episode 2

Welcome back to Roar: The Podcast! In this episode, senior Zianna Razon, sophomore Amelia Howell and freshman Karleigh Osenbaugh discuss the way distance learning has affected their academic and personal achievement.

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  • Karleigh Osenbaugh, freshman
  • Amelia Howell, sophomore
  • Zianna Razon, senior

Edited by Melina Kritikopoulos


Melina: Hello everyone and welcome to Roar: The Podcast, a student-run podcast hosted by members of Santa Clara High School’s very own The Roar staff.

Amelia: Hello everyone and welcome to Santa Clara High School’s Roar: The Podcast. I’m Amelia, and I’m a sophomore at Santa Clara High School. 

Zianna: I’m Zianna, and I’m a senior at Santa Clara High.

Karleigh: I’m Karleigh, and I’m a freshman at SCHS.

Zianna: Today we plan to discuss how the new year of distance learning has impacted us so far. For many students, online learning is extremely stressful, time-consuming, and terrible for mental health. Although we’re staying safe from the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning has its benefits and downsides, and we’re looking forward to bringing our whole experience to the table in today’s episode.

Karleigh: Right off the bat, in general, online learning has completely destroyed my mental health compared to how it was before online learning. It’s changed everything. 

Zianna: How so?

Karleigh: You know how you have a home mentality and then a school mentality? Those have kind of mixed, and so anything I would do at school, I kind of mixed up what I would do at home. And it’s just not as organized, and it’s… everything’s messed up in my head. You know?

Amelia: I definitely agree. I feel like I have done a majority of school in my bedroom at my desk, and even though I would normally do homework at my desk, I still feel like doing homework at my desk is completely different than spending time from 8:30 in the morning to almost 3:00 in the afternoon doing school, and then doing hours and hours of homework after that in the same spot. So I definitely agree with how the combining of environments definitely has been detrimental to my mental health. 

Zianna: Yeah, it’s really weird staying at a desk for so long. And it’s hard to concentrate as well and that really affects how fast you do your homework and how much workload you really have. Because if you’re just at this desk all day and you don’t have that school environment, it’s really hard to get that homework done on time. So then after that you don’t get your assignments done, your grades start slipping, and then you’re stressed. It’s really just an awful slippery slope from there.

Amelia: I definitely agree. Coming from someone who has genuinely terrible time management, working in my bedroom has made it at least 10 times worse. Having the option to just sit in my bed, which is less than five feet away, at any time I want is so tempting, and I have no discipline. That has been really hard. I also feel like it’s hard to look at other options per say. My bedroom is the most convenient place. I have family members who are on work calls out near the living room, or even in the living room sometimes, so my room is honestly the best place to work. But again, combining my workplace with where I sleep and can be lazy is extremely hard.

Karleigh: Oh yeah, definitely. Because sometimes I’ll put off work, and I’ll make excuses for myself to relax and sit around. Because it’s your room. That’s where you don’t care about much. You just do whatever you want.

Zianna: Yeah, yeah, distance learning really is strange. And I feel like it’s affected how all of us are taking care of ourselves during quarantine because  with all the stress, sometimes we’re not able to remind ourselves to eat at this time or sleep at this time. Or to just normally be having a normal schedule because distance learning itself is just so weird. It’s really hard to adjust. And Karleigh, how have you been feeling about self-care during quarantine? How have you been doing?

Karleigh: I feel like before, when we were doing in-person school, I woke up every day and I got excited to get ready and to make myself look presentable. And currently, I’ve worn the same hoodie for like five days straight. I normally wouldn’t let myself be not put together, and I guess now that I’m in my home, I have nothing to do. I’m not as productive. I’m not as well put together. Self-care has not been a priority.

Amelia: Yeah, I feel that. I just changed out of the same hoodie I’ve been wearing for a day now. I feel with in-person school there’s no other option. It felt like my only path was “I need to wake up early and make myself look presentable because I’m going to see 2,000 people today on campus,” and I’d force myself to be active and walk around campus for seven and a half hours. But now I have the option to do school in bed with my camera off and put in the bare minimum, or even less effort, all day long. I feel like there’s so much room to let myself lack that self-care and routine structure. I feel like that’s what I lack most in life right now is a structure, and every day feels like the same with these weird drastic mood swings since I just don’t have a solid routine.

Zianna: Yeah. Because lack of structure… well, structure is what really keeps us going. Normally, I think that’s how it used to work for everyone, and normal life, I always have to wake up at this time. And because I have to wake up at this time, I’m going to sleep earlier. I’m going to eat at this time because everyone else eats at this time. But now we’re all working on … different schedules, in a sense. And I don’t know, it’s hard. I eat like only two meals a day now, sometimes only one. And then, I stay up until 5:00 a.m., and then I force myself up at 8:29 a.m. I attend school, and then right off the bat after either fourth or fifth period, I pass out for three hours. And then if I have an extracurricular, I’ll force myself to wake up again. And then I’ll do the stuff, I’ll procrastinate until like 3:00 a.m., and then the cycle repeats.

Karleigh: Eating a full meal every day? Don’t know her.

Amelia: I feel with my work schedule, especially in the last quarter of distance learning, so when I was in freshman year, I would not do any homework until midnight, and I would stay up until four in the morning, get four hours of sleep, do school all in bed, and then once sixth period ended, I would hit that hang up button and go to bed for six more hours. My sleep schedule shifted like 12 hours. It was crazy. It really goes to show quarantine gives us so much room to shift our schedules in extremely unhealthy ways.

Zianna: Yes, it’s awful. It’s just too easy to be lazy. And that’s bad. I liked it better when I had to be basically restrained by a tight schedule. So I was always forced to do the next thing. And then from that, I was keeping a healthy lifestyle, and I was in a good mental state because I was just always busy, always productive. I didn’t have that, I guess, shame of slacking off all the time, but now, it’s almost inescapable. If I can sleep for two hours in the middle of the day, I’m going to do it, nobody’s going to stop me, and I don’t like that. I wish I had something to keep me busy.

Amelia: Yeah, nothing is there to really stop you.

Karleigh: Yeah, even last week, it was lunchtime, and I decided I’m going to take a nap because my teacher lets me out early, so I have like an hour long lunch – which I’m grateful for – but then I was forty minutes late to my class. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, but I can’t help it. I’m just so exhausted. I need more self control and feeling the need to have that makes me feel even more guilty. On top of all of that.

Zianna: Yeah, I don’t know about you guys, but for me it’s an awful cycle of I guess laziness and then shame and then stress.

Amelia: The cycle is truly awful, I feel like honestly there’s nothing going on in my life right now except this existential repeating day where I wake up at 8:15, go back to bed for 14 minutes, finally get out of bed at 8:29 and then go to class for how long, and then just do homework. The homework is insane. I don’t know about you guys, but I have a visual to do list, and I would not be here without it. I had to count (how many tasks I had to do) yesterday. I had 16 tasks and assignments that I had to complete by midnight that night. It’s so crazy. Again, school being the only thing going on in my life right now, I feel like I’ve started to kind of base my worth off of how productive I am in regards to school. It’s the weirdest association. School is horrible for my mental health, and then considering that, I base my worth off of how well I do in school, which again, is horrible for my mental health. The cycle is just garbage.

Zianna: Because there’s just no other option, we have nothing else in our lives to perceive ourselves, and it is not going well for both, at least for me.

Karleigh: I don’t know about guys, but I’ve always been… my mother, she built me to have high expectations for myself. And during in-person school, I upheld those. Recently, I’ve gotten the first C ever. I felt so ashamed of myself just to let myself get to that point. Normally I’m pretty prestigious for how I perceive myself, and to have that totally humbled me first off. It also made me feel terrible, like gross and icky and all that.

Amelia: I had the exact same experience, except it was in-person school. During the end of last semester, I got my very first B, and I really beat myself up over that. I feel – I don’t know how or when it started – but I have such high expectations for myself. When it comes to school, I will beat myself up if I don’t even have an A in a class. I feel like that is a totally unrealistic expectation, especially during a pandemic, and I still manage to hold myself to these extremely high expectations. That especially has been really hard with the screwed up school system that we’re experiencing in a pandemic. Obviously, it’s not realistic to get all As, but I still expect myself to achieve that.

Zianna: Oh my gosh, I see myself in you guys. You guys are my past years talking to myself. You have no idea how many times I’ve cried in a bathroom after my math class. 

Amelia: I used to put my hood on in Spanish class and cry when she would assign things, and feel like, “Oh my God. I have no idea how to do this.”

Zianna: That’s definitely a phase of growth, learning to be okay with failure. That’s what high school is all about, really. And that kind of reminds me of this other topic I wanted to talk about, which is that since we’re in distance learning, we truly are distanced from the rest of the people at our school and school has been stressful from the start, even in person, lots and lots of stress. But it was okay because we were all going through it together. We had our friends there every day with us for emotional support. We had all of those school events. Now, we are left with the stress by ourselves, and it’s really hard to cope alone. I feel really sorry for everybody, especially freshmen like Karleigh or anyone who’s still undergoing all of this new level of stress that high school brings, and they have to go through it alone. I think that’s absolutely awful.

Amelia: Yeah, and especially not having friends to go through it with you. I feel like we’re all fighting completely different battles, even though we kind of are all living the same life right now. It’s hot and cold. It’s really weird. I also feel when you’re stressed during a physical school year, there’s at least, per se, an end point in sight. For me and Zianna, we’re both in Leadership. Stressing over homecoming, we know that there’s going to be a day where we’re not going to be stressed over homecoming because it’ll be over and it (the hard work we put in) will have truly paid off. But now, I feel like we’re in the middle of October, and I have to do this until at least January – basically indefinitely – because I personally don’t think we’re going back in January, and there’s really no end goal or reward or anything in sight. It’s just, “I have to do this and keep up with it for I don’t know how long, and I’m not gaining anything from it.” Everything feels really, really meaningless.

Karleigh: Humans, we’re very social creatures. Being alone and I don’t really… like you said. You have an endpoint when you were at in-person school. For me, especially as a freshman, there’s nothing for me to look forward to just kind of that existential dread of feeling alone all the time. Super hard to deal with, especially now. It’s hard to get a session with any type of therapist or counselor. I can’t deal with it on my own. I’m still, quite literally a child. It’s so difficult and confusing, and I’ve never been in a situation where I had to deal with all of this stuff by myself. It’s kind of awakening or something.

Amelia: I definitely feel you on the therapy part. I have to do therapy, again, in my room on a video call with a therapist. The combination of this is where I cry and dissect myself—

Zianna: These are our living pods. We’re living in a dystopia. We do everything in our rooms now.

Amelia: Even when I try to improve myself… it’s really hard, I feel like I can never win.

Karleigh: Like you said, your home is like your pod. My mental health reflects strongly on my living space. It’s embarrassing sometimes to get into class and people see me, how I’m living. I just don’t like it because you feel weird. You have all your classmates looking into your room, and I don’t want you there.

Zianna: It is really strange. It’s kind of awkward. Every morning I have to, sometimes have to turn off my camera real quick to fix my bed, or fix my fan because it looks weird. I’m like, “Oh my God. People are gonna see it.” It’s so weird because you know how we all see each other at school like her outfit, I see the people that she’s with and that’s all that we judge each other on. I know it’s high school, everybody judges each other – that’s basically all there is to it – but now it’s online. All we have is just the person’s face and their background, and it’s weird. It’s different and weird, and I don’t like it.

Amelia: I definitely feel singled out, and even though I know that’s not realistic and there are 30 other people in my class that everyone is also looking at, I just feel so singled out. It’s just me and my background. That’s it.

Zianna: Oh, you know what else is weird? You don’t even we don’t even know who’s in our classes. I don’t remember a lot of people who are in my class.

Amelia: I haven’t met my teachers, and it’s even worse for freshmen. But as a freshman, you only know your own teachers, and maybe you’ve heard of some other teachers, so I feel like going into sophomore year is when you really finally start dipping your feet in the water and getting to know the real Santa Clara community, like I know these famous teachers through a screen.

Karleigh: Definitely. Someone during journalism said a teacher’s name. And I was like, “Who?” I have no idea who these people are. I’m envious of people who do know them because they seem like such great people, and I don’t know who they are at all.

Zianna: Yeah, it’s so sad. Especially the freshmen, but also the sophomore class. You guys aren’t getting this time to get to know the Santa Clara high school community. I think it’s really cool to get to know your entire class throughout the four years. Freshman year, you’re all strangers, and you’re like, “Oh, who’s that?” But then senior year, we all know each other. We’ve all seen how all of us have grown. We’ve all gone through similar things and interrelationships and things like that. Freshmen and sophomores, I feel like you guys aren’t getting that kind of like connection anymore. That’s so sad.

Amelia: I know, and to be honest, I don’t know my classmates. It’s crazy. I feel like we’re eventually going to go back to school, and I’m gonna be like, “Oh, I know what her Google profile picture is, but I actually don’t know what her voice sounds like.”

Karleigh: It’s nice to see – I don’t know about you guys – but I went to a different middle… you know, elementary school, and then you went into middle school, and you lost some friends, and you came back to high schoo,l and then you see other people that you used to know. It’s nice to see those people in your class, but then it’s like you don’t have that connection with them anymore.

Amelia: Yeah, going in to high school, it was so fun to reconnect with people that I went to elementary school with but didn’t go to middle school with, and I feel so bad for freshmen since they don’t really get to experience that right now, and they will in the future, but again, it won’t be the same.

Zianna: Yeah. The beauty of high school – I’m going to sound so cheesy right now – but the beauty of the high school, or at least from my experience, is that it’s so unpredictable. With in-person there’s always some crazy thing that happens at school. You meet someone and become friends with someone you never thought you’d ever become friends with. You take random risks, and then you’re suddenly a part of this club where you’re these people, and it just really adds a lot of – how do I word this – it adds a lot to your life and makes things a lot more interesting, and fun and more fulfilling. I feel like a lot of what we’re missing right now is just actual fulfillment of what we’re doing with our lives. Because right now, we’re all just sitting in front of the screen, mindlessly doing all of these school assignments, and then that’s it. There’s nothing else, and it’s awful. How are we expected to stay happy or healthy mentally during COVID-19 and during the quarantine and with distance learning when all everything that kept us sane and happy in high school is just not there anymore? I think it’s awful.

Amelia: Exactly. I feel like all of the fundamental aspects of high school are missing now that we’re doing distance learning. It’s like there’s something missing in me. I see myself totally reminiscing more. On a daily basis, I’m like, “What happened a year ago today?” Interact club’s FLC (Fall Leadership Conference) was a year ago today. I keep getting Apple notifications that say a year ago today, and it’s homecoming, and I get all sad.

Karleigh: For me as a freshman, getting into high school has always been my focus. It’s always been like some kind of dream for me, seeing those TV shows set in a high school setting. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do, like walking down the hallway with all of your friends, passing the lockers, all the cute things that you saw or see in those shows. I want that, but I can’t have it.

Zianna: Well, of course, high school isn’t like the movies, but it is what you make of it. And if that’s what your plans were to make the most out of high school, like the cool, fun things that people usually do, like school events and stuff like that, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. It’s awful.

Karleigh: My brother. He used to go to SCHS and he played on the football team, and so I was lucky enough to go to the games, seeing the Spirit Squad and the football team and my brother. He dated like a cheerleader, and so they had that cute perfect movie kind of relationship. And I was like, “Why can’t like why can’t I have this? This is so cute.” Everything seemed like such a dream, and I had such high standards for it. Now I’m in my room looking at a screen learning everyday.

Amelia: I feel like those events and activities, I’m realizing now, are so important for mental health. As chaotic and dramatic as every single football game was, I really miss it. I miss being like, “Oh yeah, there’s a fight,” or waiting in line for two hours just for six deep fried Oreos. As much as I was standing in line thinking, “Oh my God, I hate this so much,” I’ve really really missed that. I would give anything to go back and stand in line for two hours for deep fried Oreos.

Karleigh: Last year when I was in eighth grade, during the school dances – we got two because we were special – I made the decision to not go because I’m not smart like that, and I missed out on it. I miss hearing, “So and so went to the bathroom and is crying because this person didn’t want to dance with her.”

Zianna: We’re all missing a little interesting drama in our lives right now. I don’t miss the fights or the lines like Amelia does, but the things that I really miss is – I can’t even describe it all in like a couple sentences – but the spirit at the games, just being with everyone, and homecoming. I miss crying at homecoming. I want to cry again. I only want to cry about school events. I don’t want to cry about school or being lonely at home. I don’t know about you guys, but have you ever just, during quarantine, sat back and fantasized about what you would be doing right now?

Amelia: Yes, all the time. I’ll be sitting in Algebra thinking, “What would I be doing right now? It’s 2:30. Well, I would be in sixth period, I would be in Spanish.” Or in general. I would be playing soccer right now, and Leadership would have just finished homecoming, and I would be at Fall Leadership Conference for Interact right now. All these things. It’s so crazy. Even though I feel like people are trying to pull some of these (old activities) off, like football conditioning. It’s really unsafe. I went to walk up to school pictures today because I live super close to SCHS. I was walking up there and (the football players) are in a big huddle.

Zianna: No masks! They’re all running around, right next to each other.

Karleigh: It’s so unsafe and because they’re sweating and gross.

Zianna: Yeah, but then again, I’m sure the athletes have been having a really hard time coping with being quarantined, too. I’m sure sports are something that they really look forward to and what really kept them going. Probably a lot of parents saw that their children were lacking motivation without sports. I take it with a grain of salt. I understand that they need this. I have in-person dance, but we’re all outside and super far apart. But I live for those days. I live for Wednesdays when I have dance, and I’m sure everyone who’s like having sports or is meeting up in person feels the same way. Even though it’s completely unsafe, I understand, partially. I’ll give them that.

Amelia: At least it’s outside and… sort of distanced.

Karleigh: I miss seeing people. I have a very, very small friend group because I’m scared of people, especially if we’re going to high school. I’d be even more terrified. I miss seeing their beautiful faces every single day, making the dumbest jokes that only we found funny because we’re not funny. I miss everything. It makes me sad. Just think about how you said you fantasize about being back at school? I kind of think about imagining what I would be doing in high school, the cheesy stuff like… Oh my God, you know in Mean Girls, they walk in triangles? I’ve always been imagining doing that, being the cool people, you know?

Zianna: Oh, you know what we have at school instead? We have some dude, a dude with a speaker, and then we have a dude with this really cool instrument. It’s like a flute and a piano combined, and he just played songs through the passing period. I enjoy it personally. We’d have groups of kids just standing in groups in the middle of the hallway, blocking everyone. Good memories, good memories. Just kidding.

Karleigh: I thought about that too. Like little cliques all spread out around the school and stuff like that. You’d be like, “Oh my God, them,” and then keep walking. Or you’d be like, “They’re cool. I’d want to be with them” or whatever.

Amelia: We could make a whole podcast about the minor things I miss. Like, I miss going to the vending machine and getting gummies between third and fourth period.

Karleigh: We have a vending machine?

Zianna: Yes girl, we have a vending machine. High school is better than middle school in so many ways. It’s a new feeling of freedom. But where’s it now? Where’s the freedom? We’re locked in our homes.

Amelia: I also miss 10:00 a.m. Wednesday mornings and late start. Getting breakfast with your friends and then walking to school is the best thing ever.

Karleigh: I wanna do that.

Zianna: If it makes you feel better, Karleigh, I’m very very sure that you will at least be back at school senior year. It has to happen. I swear I’m going to college, and I need to go outside. 

Amelia: Are you implying I’m not getting a senior year either?!

Zianna: I feel like what we can do to just kind of cope with all of the bad mental health that’s happening right now, all the loneliness is to just look forward. I guess, keep a positive mindset. We will find fulfillment again in what we do and will be with people. This is a hard time. This will hopefully be one of the hardest times in our teenage childhood and hopefully our lives, in a world sense.

Amelia: I feel like they always say, “You have to have the bad days to appreciate the good ones,” and I’m definitely looking forward to the years following this where we can just party.

Zianna: Oh, you know what, Amelia? I bet if we ever go back to school, student body participation in school events is going to skyrocket. Yeah, everybody’s going. 

Amelia: Lessons to be learned.

Zianna: I mean, Karleigh’s already on board. She sounds like she wants to do the whole high school experience package. But, you know, I feel like just being in quarantine and having nothing is gonna give us a lot of humility and make us very grateful for what we will have in the future. 

Amelia: Definitely. 

Zianna: Oh, what a nice note to end things on.

Karleigh: And that concludes this episode of Roar: The Podcast. We thank you for listening and hope you’ll share this and future episodes with your community. Until next time.