TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It’s a small victory.
Four Desert View High School students can once again enjoy socializing face to face on campus.
They are glad to be back.
Ariana Zuniga and Madisynn Marsh are sophomores.
Lilian Lujan and Azucena Mendoza are seniors.
We sat down with them to learn about their journey — what they, family and friends experienced.
And how they’ve been navigating this social, emotional, and academic rollercoaster ride.
The journey begins when schools unexpectedly shut down.
Mendoza: “I didn’t expect it to go on for so long. I thought okay maybe a couple of weeks it’s gonna be over. This things going to blow over."
Lujan: "I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a change and how it impacted my life and my family’s life as well. I had to become the babysitter for my uncles and my aunts. They’re working hard. You know, they have to still go to work."
Mendoza: "A lot of friends of mine were in different circumstances. Their parents lost their jobs. So they had to you know, step up and start working while going to school and like that was really hard for them."
It was not only hard on students, they watched teachers struggle after having to abruptly charge course with no notice or training.
Zuniga: "The transition was so quick. It felt like we had no time and I felt like our teacher just gave us busy work instead of actual assignments to follow the curriculum."
Lujan: "I could see it was hard for them to like adapt and adjust their curriculum a little bit on how they’re going to get the information to us and how we should learn."
Zuniga: "For my English class, you actually had to cut an entire chunk out because we just wouldn’t have enough time. It would be too difficult to teach online."
Marsh: "But I knew that coming to the beginning of the year, we would have needed to do work. We need to do our classwork, like this is going to be the new normal. And so they need to figure out a way to actually get us to do our work."
That required a massive technological and academic transformation that would normally take years, but this needed to be done in just a matter of months.
School leaders and teachers planned and prepared to teach remotely the next school year.
This time, the academic bar had to be raised and teachers had to figure out how to keep students engaged.
Lujan: "They’re coming up with some pretty creative ways to do that in videos."
Mendoza: "The homework assignments were getting a lot easier because the teachers are trying to help the students adjust."
Marsh: "You can definitely tell that a few teachers have procedures and they have a rhythm down and they got it and then others teachers, it’s kind of like, yeah, we did this yesterday."
While the workload piled on teachers, unexpected challenges, like big breaks in communication, delayed progress.
Marsh: "You would email them and they would have hundreds of students emailing them. I used to wait for hours for a response and I’m like I can’t do my work if I don’t have this answer."
The teens explained that they need face to face interaction with teachers even part of the time.
The routine of remote-only learning, sitting in front of a digital screen day after day hour after hour, took a toll on students.
Mendoza: "It was kind of tiring, you know?"
Cavazos: "Hard to stay motivated?"
Zuniga: "I do believe kids are missing a lot. And one of the challenges is motivation. There’s just been some months where I just don’t want to do anything."
Mendoza: "I have a friend and he told me he’s like I don’t know how to stay motivated anymore. And I felt I couldn’t help him."
Marsh: "I can see the students are struggling to have the motivation to do things. And they’re just kind of giving up at this point."
Mendoza: "They can just turn off their cameras. You can unmute and some students just don’t want to socialize."
Socialization is very important for kids, but since things haven’t return to normal, the teens said, friends have drifted off.
Marsh: "The few friends that I have are on a different track than me. I come Monday and Thursdays and they come Tuesdays and Fridays. So I don’t see my friends at school so I’m kind of a loner at lunch."
Remote or hybrid, the teens have been determined to avoid falling into the growing learning gaps created by the pandemic.
Marsh: "When students see their grades drop. That’s when they’re really like I need to do this. I figured, I’ll just do this later. No, I’ll push it a little farther, I’ll push it farther, you know and then I was like I need to get it together. I need to do the work."
Lujan: "I have to work to graduate, I have to work and you know keep my grades up. And so that’s what motivated me."
It’s been a long wild ride for these 4 Desert View teens -- a ride they hope will soon come to an end.
Cavazos: "Could you do this another year?"
Zuniga: "Absolutely not. No, the stress of online school is bad. Like I don’t think I can do this at all. No, I wouldn’t even go another month to be honest."
KGUN purposely avoided discussing grades so the students can feel comfortable talking about their experience.
More Sunnyside students will be returning to campus in April.