Letter To The Prideful Student

Jayanny Oliveira

To the student used to straight A’s and hard-work and raising your hand in class. Who was encouraged to settle but decided to challenge themselves instead. To the student who excelled, beyond what they could imagine, and heard all the rumors about your highschool years being hard and decided to push yourself anyway. 

To the same student, crippled by online school. The one who sometimes falls asleep in class or gets lost on their phone while the teacher was lecturing when all you meant to do was check a notification. To the student who never had difficulty focusing before, but now it’s too much. You know it’s easy to sit down and complete an assignment, but now you leave it for later, and suddenly it grows into ten missing assignments. Maybe you’re the student whose brain is all messed up, like mine. Your DE class is flawless, high 90’s through the board, but you’re failing your easiest class. What is going on?

Online school is amazing and terrifying. One minute you’re getting as many hours of sleep as you need and time and good food at home, and the next minute; it’s 1 AM, you took a nap at 6 PM because the school day exhausted you, and now you’re watching youtube, and you keep telling yourself you’ll get to that assignment, but you know it’s not true. You’re back asleep by 4 AM, and you wake up at 7:50 and trudge out of bed to enter your first zoom call of the day. 

You were a stellar student. What happened? 

That’s the reality of many students in these times, or well, students like me. This is an article, if anything, about my own personal experience with online learning. My struggle with online learning. As much as it feels like it, I don’t think I’m alone. I refuse to believe I am. But in many other ways, I keep assuming no one has it as bad as me. That every other face or name on my zoom screen has their personal and academic life together, and I’m just one of the faulty ones, like a broken wind-up toy. Instead of ‘study, study, study,’ my gears just churn out ‘sleep. sleep. sleep.’ or ‘binge. binge. binge.’

It feels like I’m going through these phases of intense isolation and sporadic socialization. I would first use social media to connect and stay connected, but before I knew it, I’m lost in every class and didn’t learn anything all day. Then, I delete my social media to stay off it but then I feel more alone than ever, and I use whatever streaming platform I own to fill my time instead. There’s no control, no consistency. 

And the assignments. They. Just. Keep. Coming. 

And you can’t blame them either. Your teachers have to do their job, they’re struggling too, and they need to teach their class. And when you finally do the work, it’s not that hard… it actually helps! But when you don’t, it just stacks up. More and more. And before you know it, you have 20 assignments late, progress report grades closed, and your school is giving you another day where you’re asked to spend it catching up on work, and you’re not even sure if you’ll use it correctly. 

You’re too reliant on your image of being a past Academic student that you’re not reaching out for help. You’re spiraling, and the only one to blame is yourself. School isn’t overwhelming; you are. School isn’t the problem: It’s You. 

You can’t ask your parents for help directly (you don’t know why you just can’t), and you’re just waiting for that grade slip to come home and use it as a cry for help that maybe if your parents take your phone away like they did in middle school, you might get something done. 

It’s a brutal cycle, and without discipline, it’s going nowhere. Before I was put in a position like this, I used to hear about students dealing with abhorrent procrastination and just assumed it was a dramatization. If it’s karma, I’d say I almost deserved it. This experience of having all these passions and expectations for yourself and watching as you single-handedly dismantle them, careless moment by careless moment, is a weird type of torture to put yourself through just because you think you don’t need help. 

As a student or even just as a teenager, if you feel even the slightest bit of connection with the experience stated in this article, well, I’m going to say it; those dreaded little words that have no real instruction in them. Those words you’ve either been avoiding or already told yourself a thousand times and didn’t move forward with. 

 You need to reach out for help. 

 I KNOW. I KNOW, okay? The immediate “How?” that follows my statement has already mentally shoved me back. Even as I write this, I know it’s hard to answer and seems even more impossible when we’re physically isolated from our peers, mentors, and even our educators. So I’ll simplify the steps for you, as someone who has yet to take all of them myself. 

  1. Ask. Your. Teachers. The emphasis on my period marks is intentional. Sure, it’s scary. I have some teachers who I second-guess emailing because I consider them too busy to deal with me. But that behavior isn’t going to get me anywhere. You need to communicate with your teachers about your struggles, and more so, how to tackle them properly. 
  2. Grab your parents, a sibling, or a responsible friend even—someone who is stuck with you right now. Tell them what’s going on. 
  3. Let your little sibling hide your phone. And if you’re the dreaded younger sibling, have the older ones snatch it out of your hands. (if you’re an only child, time to fess up to your parents)
  4. Make a plan. Even if you don’t stick to it, it’s good to have it there. A task-list if you will. At least you’ll have an outline of what you need to get done.
  5. Think small before you think big. It’s like trading stocks. If you go all in all at once, you’re gonna (most likely) end up with a failure and maybe a gambling addiction. And a habit of saying, “the one who got away.”
  6. If you don’t have one, or you’ve been refraining because you think you don’t deserve one until all your work is finished: GET A HOBBY. I’m serious. Scrolling through social media or hyper-fixating on a fictional character (specific, I’m sure you can guess why) is not a hobby. It’s not something you can get better in and develop a skill in, and it’s not something you’ll be able to pride yourself in the long-term. You can do amazing things. It’s time to associate that with something away from a comment section or a like button. Try something new.
  7. Burn-out is real. Mental health is the priority. I am just coming out of an episode where my hygiene, my friends, my family relationships, and my interests were the farthest things from my mind. I was on autopilot at all times when I was alone. It is not an enjoyable place to be in. Your mind being brain goop is not fun or ‘fine.’ Do not try and act like it is. 
  8. Accept your position. (NOT your behavior.) Online school is not stopping anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in it. You need to learn how you function best in this environment, and you need to stay adamant because it is just as easy to slip up and devalue your education, health, and hard work. 

To happily conclude this article, based on my experience and research, if you don’t take any of my advice, I ask you to take one sentiment. If even a fraction of yourself feels this way. Or, if some deep, hidden, procrastinating monster part of you feels even half as crazy as I do; I just want to remind you, you’re not alone. None of us are. People in caves have been writing the same ‘I was here’ messages under bridges and inside bathroom stalls. (For legal reasons, I’ve never done that in my life.)

As I was saying, people aren’t all that unique in our core emotions. For years, we have found ourselves and our experiences in other people, and there is nothing wrong with that. 

As P. De Rossi once said, “It’s good to be loved, but profound to be understood.” If an article/blog/rant piece like this rings true to even one other person, I’d say I had done my job. Good luck, fellow broken wind-up toys, you’ll be okay.

You’re not actually broken, by the way. In case you needed reminding.