Feeling Alone in 2021: Using the School To Ask For Help

Christina Tatosky, Student Writer

   When the pandemic started, most of us thought that we would have a 2-week break from school. None of us could have imagined that we would lose over a year of our lives to it. When school started online, we didn’t know how difficult it would be. Maybe some of us even thought that being at home would make things easier. 

   But now it’s evident that the opposite is true. According to the Washington Post, more students got F’s this year than ever before. Not only that, but mental illness among students is skyrocketing. And no one should be surprised. Our lives completely changed in the span of a few days, if that. 

   In times like this it’s easy to feel alone, or to feel bad about yourself because of your grades. But it is important to know that you are not alone in your struggles, and that it’s always possible to bounce back! No one should feel bad about themselves for struggling in a completely new and foreign setting. And no one should ever be embarrassed or scared to ask for help.

   I spoke to 2 RHS students about their struggles as well as one of our own RHS teachers to see if they could help give us some peace of mind and show us how we’re not alone!

 

How has the pandemic affected your performance in school?

   The pandemic has taken a toll on students’ performance in school. Whether it be through dropping grades, missing assignments, or just having a harder time understanding the material. But you have to know that everyone is going through the same thing! 

Anonymous RHS Student: 

“I don’t think it’s negatively impacted my grades too much, since I’ve been able to keep them up. But it’s definitely taken more effort to keep them as they were before the pandemic. I have to spend much more time working on assignments and trying to understand the material in order to keep my grades from slipping.” 

 

Thifany Da Silva, RHS Student:

“… I definitely feel like it has changed my education drastically for the worst. I don’t always give my all in classes like I did before.”

   The results of the pandemic on our school performances can manifest themselves in different ways. But no matter how your work may have been affected, I assure you that there is someone who is going through the same thing!

 

What kept you from reaching out for help?

   A common story among students in the pandemic (myself included), is that we need help but we’re hesitant to ask for it from our teachers. Maybe you’re embarrassed because you’re not understanding something; or maybe you’re nervous that your teacher will be upset with you. These are completely normal and common feelings! And many of your classmates were in the same boat. 

Anonymous RHS Student:

“Fear kept me from reaching out, even though I knew that teachers just wanted to support us… I remember there would be times where during class, my teacher would pause and ask if anyone had questions, and I would have one but I was hesitant to ask it. And then I’d tell myself I should ask it, but then at that point the teacher had moved on already so I would just try to figure out the answer to my question on my own. I think part of it was embarrassing too since part of me thought that before the pandemic, if we were in person, I wouldn’t have to ask the questions that I had now.”

 

   Reaching out can be scary, but sitting down and asking for help is a much better alternative to being lost and struggling. Your teachers are here to help you succeed, so reach out!

 

How did you go about asking for help and bouncing back?

   We know that teachers want to support us and will help us with anything we need. But actually sitting down and asking for help can still be scary. A common fear (and one that I go through a lot) is fear that teachers will think that you don’t care about their class. But in reality, any teacher will tell you that just by reaching out for help and asking questions, you’re already proving to them that you’re making an effort!

Anonymous RHS Student:

“At first, asking for help at the beginning if I wasn’t too afraid would be private messaging the teacher during class with my questions. It then grew to emailing the teacher after class, and then staying after class on the zoom call… I think that over time, I slowly got more and more comfortable with asking questions and I’ve gotten to the point where when I have questions, I unmute and ask during class.”

 

Thifany Da Silva, RHS Student:

“Sometimes I ask during class, send them an email, or ask if I can get some help during flex block. It honestly just depends on the teacher and the time of day.”

 

   For students who feel uncomfortable asking for help in a zoom meeting, there are plenty of private ways to reach out. You could always email them and even set up a private zoom call! One on one learning where you can freely and comfortably ask questions is an amazing resource, and it’s also a resource that we can use at any time!

 

How did your teachers help you?

   Sometimes asking for help, in addition to feeling scary, can feel pointless. It’s easy to fall into a funk of “Why bother?” But even asking just one clarifying question can make a huge difference in helping you get back on the right track! 

Anonymous RHS Student:

“My teachers helped me by going over the questions on the assignment again and re-explaining things, or by doing a similar problem or question and going over that. Then, they’d let me ask clarifying questions after their re-explanation like “Why did you do this?” or “How does this work?” until I understood it.”

 

Thifany Da Silva, RHS Student:

“They’d explain things to me in a simpler or different way. Or they’d help me with some practice problems (specifically for math). It doesn’t sound like much but it gets the job done.”

 

Were your teachers upset with you at all?

    One of the biggest reasons that kids don’t ask for help is that they believe that their teachers will be upset with them. Maybe you have a lot of missing assignments and you’ve convinced yourself that your teacher thinks that you’re lazy or a bad student. When in reality, nothing could be further from the truth! We as students are going through a really hard time right now, but what we don’t think about is that our teachers are going through the same things! They understand that things are really difficult right now. Teachers are happy to help us with whatever we need to get back on track! 

 

Anonymous RHS Student:

“No, my teachers were not upset at all. The teachers that I have are understanding and try to be accommodating to students during the pandemic. So they aren’t upset or annoyed when they have to go over the material or explain things again.” 

   During a pandemic where there are already so many emotions over the state of the world, small things like “What if my teacher is mad at me?” can end up snowballing into all out fear. But what everyone has to remember is that teachers are for us! They wouldn’t be teachers if they weren’t happy to help students, especially during a time like this.

 

What would you say to others who are struggling and need help?

Anonymous RHS Student:

“I’d say that I definitely understand the feeling where asking questions are terrifying and that it seems better to keep your questions to yourself, but there’s going to be some point where looking over the material yourself and trying to teach yourself doesn’t help you… Asking a question is so much more helpful than reading over worksheets and feeling lost because you don’t understand. And your other classmates aren’t going to think differently of you if you ask questions. (Honestly, I doubt they care at all or pay attention). Do what you have to do to help yourself understand what’s going on in class, and don’t feel guilty about it. Because asking for help is what’s going to… well, help you.”

 

Thifany Da Silva, RHS Student:

“Try not to overthink! That’s easier said than done but teachers are supposed to be there to help you learn and support you!”

 

   In order to get a different perspective on this issue, I spoke to RHS Chemistry and Forensics teacher, Ms. Hellerstein.

 

What do you think would be the best way for students who are struggling to get back on track?

   Asking even one question in class can make a world of difference in online learning. But sometimes students need more than a quick question. Contacting your teachers and making a plan on how to help you, can and will help you completely turn your grades around!

 

Ms. Hellerstein, RHS Teacher:

“To get back on track, students should email their teacher and ask for help prioritizing the necessary assignments. With the change to Competency Based Learning, teachers are assessing students and looking for evidence of learning and mastery of the information. Therefore, it may be that the assignments that need to be completed can be limited.”

 

What is something you would like anyone who is struggling with school to know?

Teachers understand what we’re going through and that we’re having a hard time, and they won’t think less of you for it! 

 

Ms. Hellerstein, RHS Teacher:

“If you are struggling, I would like students to know that asking for help is OKAY!”

 

   There’s more than one way of going about schoolwork. There are tons of small adjustments that you can make and discuss with your teacher to help you.

 

“Also, try to keep up with the formative assignments. If a student has attempted the formative assignments and is still struggling, that gives us a starting point for where to add support… Once they have completed more of the assignments,  then it is time to do the next step which is…be specific when asking for help. For example: instead of saying “I don’t understand anything” a better way to ask for help is to say something like “I understand what atomic number and atomic mass are, but I really don’t understand how isotopes are different”. A blanket statement of “I don’t understand” doesn’t allow for [the teacher] to know where to add clarification.” ;Ms. Hellerstein, RHS Teacher

   

   Making small adjustments and following small tips from your teachers can change the whole trajectory of your learning! But making a plan and following your teachers recommendations is an easy and effective way to not only connect with your teacher about your struggles, but to get yourself on the path to success!

 

The Lesson

   As students going through a massive up-rooting of our normal lives, as well as living through everything we’ve lived through this past year; it is natural, even expected for us all to be struggling. Yet we get this idea, “I’m struggling so much, I’m such a mess, no one is as bad as me.” Please know that that is not true! Times like this one are very difficult; but taking action and reaching out to your teachers, who are more than happy to help you, is the best way to help yourself! And do not beat yourself up!