I am a seventeen-year-old junior attending a public charter high school. After hearing what experts have to say about education during the pandemic at a recent virtual forum organized by Mass Insight, I want to share with you a student’s point of view.
The world was thrown off of its axis and billions were sent into a panic when COVID-19 hit us. Within what felt like moments, global quarantines and lockdowns were used as the first steps to ending the public health crisis. Everyone was scared of the unknown and of their futures. People ranging from scientists, to doctors, to teachers, and teens like me were greatly affected by the decision to shut everything down. Suddenly, we were thrust into our homes, taken out of school and, many, out of work and into a life completely unfamiliar. Children with special needs were no longer receiving much-needed aid, parents were now teachers along with providers, teenagers were adults trying not to fail. Our world was changing fast and no one seemed to know exactly what to do.
While all people in this situation faced unimaginable problems, many overlooked students, especially teenagers like my classmates and me, are already facing the most impactful and meaningful years of our lives so far. Most young people are barely keeping their heads above the surface level of the many expectations forced upon them by society. While the few who are thriving are often being shown as examples, parents use them to remind their children to try harder rather than trying instead to understand what problems teenagers are facing. Parents, teachers, school board members, and other adults making school-related decisions are asking for the opinions of all the wrong people, looking for advice everywhere but the source itself: the students. We are the ones with the voices waiting to be heard; yet no one seems to be listening.
Adults in leadership positions during this time have been making decisions for students based mostly on what they think students need rather than interacting with the ones whose lives are changing. The best way to help students get through the pandemic is to listen to what they have to say. For example, poll students online to create ways for them to speak out on their own behalf. Most students have strong opinions often suppressed by expert voices, even if well-intentioned. Give students the power to be heard by letting them speak at town or school board meetings. Letting young adults have a voice could change our world for the better. Often during a big time of change, the youngest voices have the most revolutionary ideas, ideas that older generations wouldn’t think even consider.
This world has started to lash out during quarantine, pushing boundaries and yelling truths rather than whispering them behind closed doors, and maybe that’s just what school systems need now. Students are our next generation, and young adults like me will one day, sooner than we think, run this world. The shift in trust and responsibility should begin with letting students help make major decisions that are affecting our future. The world is changing fast and the only way to survive and adapt is to change with it, challenge young voices, let them challenge the world; we might just surprise you.
Ava-Rose Siebert is a junior at Innovation Academy Charter School and lives in Lowell, MA.