With a staggered or full return to school on the horizon in NSW, the Herald asked students to tell us what they learnt from their remote learning experience and their feelings about about going back to school.
Here’s a selection of their letters:
If there is anything I have learnt from being locked in my home, watching musicals on repeat and playing zoom charades with my friends, it’s to be thankful. To all the teachers around the world who have helped us to learn through this, thank you. You still made our final years of school memorable, from making us laugh at virtual backgrounds or allowing us to eat breakfast in period one. Even though you often freeze on the screen in the middle of class and awkward silences fill the virtual classroom, there is so much to laugh and smile about.
And thank you to what I like to call the class of Covid 2020. You are resilient, you are bold, and you are warriors. This is a strange final year, but we will go down in the books of history, not only for simply existing through this pandemic, but because of the way we’ve survived it. Tik toks, zoom meet-ups and smiles all round.
Satara Uthayakumaran, 17, Wahroonga
I have read numerous dystopian fantasy books in my time, including The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. I have also seen The Walking Dead, and, if you have seen that show, you will understand that maybe if they socially isolated it would not have been that bad. It seems this has been the moment I have waited for since I was 12 years old; leaving school to pursue a dangerous mission to stop the virus and take down the system with my band of loyal friends. I have been training for this moment, doing my research and now I am ready: the hero’s journey.
But … my reality turned out to be sitting on the lounge eating chicken noodles while watching Community for three hours. I have had to accept that I am not Katniss Everdeen, just a bored and tired 15-year-old who actually enjoys schoolwork. I never realised how much of my time I dedicated to that place. I am even excited to catch the bus. I guess my Katniss moment must wait for now: I just want to see my friends and learn again.
Emma McNamara, 15, Wallsend
Are you OK? I am doing great today. Being in lockdown is weird, so I ask my friends and family how they are doing all the time. When I go back to school, I am going to give my friends a big hug. I never wrote letters to my friends before lockdown. Now I send my friends nice messages, drawings, lollies and even zucchini and pumpkin seedlings to cheer them up. I put letters in their letterboxes when I go out for exercise. When I receive a letter, I feel so excited and happy. When we go back to school, I hope that we keep checking on each other and asking people if they are OK.
Penny Wong, 9, Leichhardt
What I’m looking forward to
If you’d told me eight weeks ago that I’d be begging to go back to school, I would not have believed you. But I’m bored. I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends, my lovely, kind teachers, being able to run around and just be with more people. Oh, and please remind me of this in another 10 weeks’ time when I’m complaining about going to school again.
Ada Pettafor, 9, Redfern
Re-entering the school gates will deliver so much joy to our school community and bring little experiences back to life: waving good morning to school maintenance workers, eating lunch together, greeting teachers, slipping on our school uniform. We’ve collectively developed a newfound appreciation for every aspect of school life. It feels magical. We’re all buzzing to re-embark on our school journey, however this time with gratitude, compassion and strength filling the atmosphere like it never has before.
Ella Berckelman, 17, Randwick
I’ve always found school pretty fun and enjoyable, but I do think going back to school in comparison to this it would be like going to Disneyland.
Vivian Greenwood, 9, Lilyfield
What I learnt
I think remote learning has benefited many students and their families. It has given people a chance to bond. This global pandemic had been a perfect opportunity to slow down, spend more time with your family, start a new hobby, or get that extra 30 minutes of sleep. I believe with all of the stress that students face these days, remote learning is a great way for students to stop, relax, and learn at their own pace.
Sabrina Delnawaz, 15, Casula
During lockdown I’ve become closer to my family and I’ve learnt a lot more about my parents. We’ve played board games and we’ve had movie nights. We’ve played games that my dad used to play as a child. I’ve reached my goal to read 200 books.
Akash Thayananthan, 11, Pendle Hill
I have realised the importance of family and learnt a lot more about being independent. I’ve noticed the stress of assessment tasks is so irrelevant and silly. We should be more focused on being with the ones we love, not worrying about grades. I’ve thought about the future, noticing how much time you waste travelling to and from school five days a week. I feel like I have been more aware of what’s going on in the world and have learnt to put the phone down and reconnect.
Carmen Gonzalez, 12, Ashfield
Spending time at home has made me realise how boring life would be without school. I’ve been keeping a diary of what I’ve been doing throughout lockdown, it has been mostly the same every day. It will be good to look back in my diary in a few years’ time.
Ruby Hilder, 9, Ophir
I quite enjoy home schooling because I’ve learnt a lot new computer skills and I really think that it’s been good for us to have a break from each other and the fighting, bullies and stuff, because we are all going to go back to school and be better friends.
Eva Greenwood, 8, Bondi Junction
Anxiety on return
I am nervous and I feel weird about it because I haven’t been to school for a long time and my friends might not want to play with me anymore.
Beatrice Bromley, 6, Balgowlah Heights
As a Year 12 student, I’m worried about advantages other students may have in the HSC because they have more face-to-face learning opportunities, since every school has set-up different systems. On the other hand, I am generally concerned for the safety of students and teachers when we return to school. There are always doubts on my mind concerning the genuine cleanliness and hygiene standards of schools. Moreover, as I am of Asian background and have to travel on public transport daily, I find it absolutely horrifying to read reports of Asian people being assaulted in public during this pandemic and am terrified of something happening to myself or someone I know.
Charmaine Kwok, 17, Mortdale
I’m a little nervous about returning to school because after a few weeks of home learning, I’ve kind of adapted to it. I feel very safe in this enclosed house, while at school I am still afraid of this coronavirus problem. However, I like the way teachers encourage me to do things. My parents (especially my mum) can never encourage me as good as my teachers.
Brian Li, 8 years old, Quakers Hill
Only 90 days of Year 12 will be left when our cohort returns to school. It will be a memorable day, where we will reunite with our friends and esteemed teachers for the first time in eight weeks. When this pandemic began, many of us liked the idea of remote learning. Little did we know how much we would miss being on campus.
Walking through the gates, catching up with friends, standing around for assembly, seeing a teacher or playing touch football at break times. Many of us “went through the motions” without appreciating these day-to-day normalities.
Upon our return, a day will not pass without being thankful for being on site, as our days will now be numbered. Thank you remote learning, you’ve been nice. A different style of learning, a temporary change of scenery, a different lifestyle. You’ve made us become more grateful for things we usually take for granted, particularly being at school. Thank you to every teacher across NSW for your hard work and dedication. You have got us through this tough period, and through to the other side.
Spiro Christopoulos, 17, Drummoyne
Spending every day in the same room has allowed me to appreciate the little things in my life at school. The train rides, the blissful sound of the school bell, girls laughing in the hallways, and seeing my favourite teachers every day. I can’t wait to squeeze my friends with the tightest hug imaginable. I’ll miss the sleeping in and the special time spent with my family. It has allowed me to appreciate I have so many wonderful and supportive people in my life.
Lauren Knezevic, 16, Concord West
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from these weeks of learning at home, it’s to be grateful regardless of our circumstances. When we can see each other – stay grateful. When we can’t – stay grateful.
If we’re back at school tomorrow, or in a month, or in a year, we need to remember to stay grateful. Those on the front lines, who’ve lots their jobs, who’ve lost loved ones – I can’t speak for them. But I can say to school students that we’ve got it so good. We’re safe. We’re still alive. This has been hard, and sure, we’re not in ideal circumstances, but we have to remember how blessed we are.
Beatrice Ku, 15, Condell Park
I am really excited about going back to school, even if only for one day a week. I felt very lonely and upset that I haven’t been able to see any of my friends so I’m really happy to see them after seven weeks. Going back to school to see my teachers, I will make sure I thank them so much for all their hard work to get us our online learning. I definitely appreciate school a LOT more than I used to.
Nylla Russell, 9, Curl Curl
Thank you teachers
Going back to class will return our sanity! Amen to that! I’ve learnt to not take life for granted and to appreciate all the little things. This experience has taught me how to maintain consistency in my school work. It has shown me the importance of spending time wisely and maintaining focus on whatever it is that you’re doing.
More significantly, it has allowed me to recognise the hard work of our teachers and education officers. If you’re a teacher or school staff who’s reading this, WE LOVE YOU! Australia’s education system is something I’m sure I will no longer take for granted!
Chloe Juwono, 15, Wetherill Park
My teacher cheers me up when she puts funny pictures of herself dressed as a carrot, watermelon, potato and egg on Google Classroom. I don’t like doing work at home, but I will give her an apple when we go back to school to say thanks for being a good teacher.
Olivia Wong, 6, Leichhardt
I’m excited to go back to school because:
1.) I can FINALLY escape my two brothers
2.) I don’t have to sit down all day and get a flat butt
3.) I get to see my friends!
Staying home as made me appreciate my wonderful teachers more. They are such optimistic people and even in this difficult time, they are the ones who sacrifice their time for our education and wellbeing. Some of our teachers aren’t that good with technology but I soon realised that is actually a good thing cause we don’t get much homework (until they learn how to post work)! I want to thank everyone on the front lines and all of our ministers. They inspire me to be kind, have the courage and be empathetic.
Emma Soo, 12, Ashfield
Natassia is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.