How Covid affected learning but teachers and students worked to overcome the obstacles

Many of us students will be asking ourselves, as we are completing exams currently or have already finished, how has the past two years affected our learning and how greatly did Coronavirus affect our exams, writes Foyle College student Callum Watt.
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But let’s bring it back to where it all started, the first case of COVID hit Derry around the end of February 2020 and this ‘mysterious virus’ that had only really been centralised to China, had spread to our local city of Derry quite quickly. Within a few weeks the virus had spread and pubs, shops, restaurants and most notably schools had all been on lockdown and we were advised to stay inside which had a huge impact on society itself as the deserted streets on holidays like St Patrick’s Day was something that had never been seen before.

With the cancellation of exams for the past two years, a lot of us were on edge about the way things would pan out in the coming year, like local student Fred Glavin who says he made sure coursework was the best it could be, explaining: “I felt quite confident going into this year’s exams as I had been making sure to work hard all year in case exams had been cancelled, we all had that fear that history would repeat itself for the third time and we had a constant fear of uncertainty right through September to June. All schools, teachers and pupils had worked steadily over the past two years to make everything worked which gave us students a drive to not let all this effort go to waste with exams getting to go ahead this year.”

However, not only were students affected, but also teachers, some of them felt at a loss as they saw the immeasurable changes to the education system then, and likely forever. English teacher in Foyle College Mr. D. Keown felt “daunted by the whole concept of online teaching” and found “phrases such as Zoom, Teams and Google Classroom” were definitely new to his lexicon but were soon as familiar as “take out your diary”.

City in Lockdown: Deserted Waterloo Street. DER4117GS010City in Lockdown: Deserted Waterloo Street. DER4117GS010
City in Lockdown: Deserted Waterloo Street. DER4117GS010

As time passed everyone seemed to grasp the idea of the online platforms, staff and students were well prepared for the second lockdown in January 2021, everyone was wanting to make the best of a bad situation and with the sight of 27 cameras looking at you, as a teacher, it must be a challenge to communicate with everyone simultaneously, especially those who take an interactive approach to teaching. Mr. Keown left a final comment stating: “It was not a perfect system, but it wasn’t a perfect time and embracing whatever resources were available saw that the student experience was not affected too detrimentally by the pandemic.”

Online learning was another key aspect that affected our motivation and concentration and we felt as if no end of this situation was in sight and feared this could become the ‘norm’ for schooling in the future, which was expressed by Fred’s further comments on remote learning: “I can’t say I enjoyed distant learning, but I don’t think anyone did; although Foyle were great in offering support in learning it’s just not the same as if you were there in person and throughout the whole time, I was looking forward to returning to school and it’s something I’d hope we’d never have to do again.”

I agree with the statement that schools were very supportive in the process, and whilst a few didn’t agree, teachers used what limited resources they had to keep learning engaging yet also still effective, which wouldn’t necessarily have worked for all students as we all have different learning styles.

I myself was a ‘victim’ of COVID-19’s impact upon students, and I felt that despite all the circumstances everything was handled by everyone to the best of their ability and with available resources; we were able to overcome this and despite the setbacks and the negativity of it all we can look upon this era in a positive light as it has proven we can overcome the things that life may throw at us, and has showed us we can persevere, be optimistic and we can prevail through exams, which are already hard enough on their own, despite the difficulty of the situation around us.

I think as one of the only generations to be affected by something such as Coronavirus we can take pride in knowing we overcame the obstacles and made learning work for us.