Many students who were passionate about learning and planning for their futures are struggling to find the motivation for online school and are falling behind. Patricia Perez, an associate professor of international psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, recently worked with a 16-year-old who loved math and science and was part of his school’s robotics and Model United Nations clubs.
After moving to virtual learning, he started sleeping more during the day, isolating himself from friends and family and is losing interest in going to college. Perez says, “He’s not motivated anymore. Young people like to make plans for the future, and it’s difficult to do that when they don’t know how long this new way of life will last” (American Psychology Association).
Many students are falling behind in online learning. Reasons can be that the curriculum is either too easy and they lose the motivation or the curriculum does not fit their needs. Students struggle to keep up, or they do not have enough support at home and are unable to handle the independent learning style on their own.
Lee County Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins says, “I think, overall, our students that are in the distance learning model are not making the progress that we would like to see compared to our students that are face-to-face. Now, that’s not to say all kids, because some of our kids are thriving in the distance model, but you have to be a pretty special individual, particularly if you’re going to do Lee Virtual School because that’s a very independent model” (Wink News).
Lee County schools have been pushing for students to come back to in-person learning in 2021 after the Florida Department of Education issued an executive order that calls for students falling behind in virtual learning to return in-person. “In December, the district reported that nearly 70% of its Lee Home Connect students, or roughly 16,000 children and teens, would receive phone calls from their schools encouraging them to make the move” (ibid).
Back at the start of the second quarter in November, 10,115 students switched from virtual to in-person, and another 5,653 went back on January 11. “Current enrollment figures show that 77% of students in Lee County are back on campus” (ibid). That percentage should continue to rise as another 946 students are scheduled to go back at the start of the second semester on Feb. 1, when the Lee Virtual School is set to transfer back to classrooms.
Teachers are doing everything they can to motivate and accommodate their virtual students, but nothing can replace face-to-face learning. It is important not only for students to see their teachers in-person but also for their peers. Being around their friends and peers provides the motivation that cannot be duplicated in virtual learning.
The Uyeno Foundation’s mission is to fund initiatives that promote positive mental health through prevention, intervention, treatment, and education. We want to shed light on mental health challenges throughout our nation while focusing on the local community in southwest Florida.
If you are a teacher or administrator serving in southwest Florida, please share your positive and proactive thoughts about how we can all work together to improve the way we motivate and take care of the students who cannot return to the classroom in-person.