PTSA Shared Voices

On occasion the PTSA sends out a questionnaire to get a sampling of parent and student  experiences and to provide parents, guardians, and students with an opportunity for their experiences to be heard.

 

We only share what parents consent to letting us share.

 

The PTSA takes special care to be sure that what we include aligns with the National PTA resolution on “strengthening support of public school teachers, and, therefore according, educators high public esteem, reflecting the value that the community places on public education.”

 

January 2021

Distance Learning Impact on Mental/Emotional Well Being

Here are 113 responses from Berkeley parents and students who agreed to having their PTSA January  2021 Questionnaire responses shared and answered the question:

 

 How has distance learning affected  you (or your child’s) mental and emotional well being? 

 

-- My child already has depression, anxiety and ADHD. This has added to it. Luckily they have been managing it fairly well.

-- None.

-- Negatively. Negatively impacts motivation and interest in school. Doesn’t care about grades. My student is “plugged in “ out of boredom and apathy much of the time and often tuned out.

--Not very well

- This has been incredibly hard on my teenage girls and I think the cost to mental health has Not been adequately considered when evaluating safety of in person school. I am in favor of a return to school (with cautions such as mask wearing and limited pods), although I also understand the importance of teacher safety. I hope that once teachers are vaccinated, schools will reopen ASAP.

-- Poorly - they are so isolated!

-- She’s lonely and depressed; not making new friends; not involved in clubs or school activities; she is gaining weight and not physically active

-- Its fine for me emotionally and mental health wise

--it's decimated her self esteem, social interactions, no interest in school and failing.

-- Some intermittent difficulties

-- She has fared well, however, it has been difficult

-- He's a resilient kid and plays baseball so that is keeping him relatively happy. He misses his friends and meeting new kids. It's a challenge for all of these kids when they are primed for more social interaction. He can't wait to get on campus, and perhaps BHS could plan some socially distanced activities (outside with masks) for the kids - especially the freshmen who haven't been on campus.

-- DL = severe depression. Lack of any clarity of what the future of their education will look like and when. Will there be in-person education Fall of 2021?

-- My son has been working on getting clean (from weed and vaping) in 2020. Distance learning this year has been positive for him in light of this personal struggle.

-- He is doing well emotionally because he sees and interacts with friends outside of class. However, at this point he has lost some motivation.

-- he no longer "sees the point," feels disconnected and lonely

-- Poorly: bored, hard to engage

--Bored, missing casual interactions with friends, had to allow more videogame time so my kid could chat/"hang out" with friends. Didn't make new friends (yet), same ones from middle school. Other than that, fine - less teen drama or transportation issues.

-- Negatively. Apathy and depression. Self consciousness from staring at each other on the screen.

-- She is bored and misses her friends. The back and forth schedule means she is not consistently with the same friend groups.

-- My child gets angry easier than before.

-- I (the child mother) need quiet time by myself, but it’s almost not possible now.

-- I think there is more apathy, less of a sense that school matters, so less motivation. Not much motivation to join any online clubs, so pretty isolated too.

-- child became even more of a loner

-- My student says it hasn't affected him, but I'm sure he'd have more fun and be happier interacting with other kids in real life in ways that he doesn't appreciate.

-- Distance learning has had a devastating effect on her mental health. She is anxious and has become alternately sad and angry and hopeless. Her friendships have dwindled to one, with no opportunity to create new ones. She spends most of her time in her room, alone. She has always loved going to school and is a very social person. Without in person interaction she is spiralling.

-- Terribly. He's so demoralized and depressed. From loving school prior to this, he now dreads the start of school each day. He so misses interacting with his peers.

-- More sleep has been good, but he’s lost and lonely for the most part.

-- Significant decrease because of the lack of interaction and community. Every day feels the same which makes me much less enthusiastic.

-- She is lonely.

-- He has recently been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and mild depression. While I don't believe distance learning was the reason for these diagnoses, I do believe it exacerbated his issues.

-- yes, incredibly. He is depressed, withdrawn, and lethargic.

-- Added anxiety. Losing some interactive/social skills (like all of us)

-- Not having in person connections with her peers has played a heavy toll on her well being. Also, feeling like teachers are not interested in taking the time to know who they are as individuals.

see above, she is a strong student but hates going to class in fear of being called on all the time in class after class.

-- I feel terrible consistency with no motivation to do any work whatsoever. I feel like this distance learning plan really screwed over everyone’s mental health.

-- He feels isolated and misses interacting with his friends and teachers. He doesn't have a real connection with any of his teachers which supports his learning.

-- It amplifies my inability to teach concepts that my child struggles with and makes me question my own knowledge and ability to support my child. My child has been experiencing much more frustration when she doesn't understand something and has been exhausted by the format of distance learning.

-- It's been totally heinous for all of my kids. They are unhappy and not engaged.

-- Parents are sad and anxious about what he’s missing out on. He seems ok.

-- My child has definitely suffered from the lack of contact with peers. I am worried about her level of social interaction being too low.

-- It's been disorganizing to not have a separation between school and home.

-- he is lonely and though a very social kid, he has not made new friends

-- negatively - both of my children have low energy and seem depressed. It's unnatural at their age to be in isolation. they have no desire to go outside. one daughter has begun having nightmares and the other struggles to fall asleep and has anxieties about things she never used to think about.

-- It's bad for their mental and physical health because it's stressful and causes them anxiety. Our home is busy and noisy and there is a lot of noise from the construction in our apartment building, since August last year, with drilling machines, etc. What the Berkeley confederation of teachers states is ridiculous! they are selfish teachers and have said "why can't we work from home like others are doing it?" Most people are working in person! -childcare providers, Doctors, nurses, store clerks, supermarket cashiers, farmers, TEACHERS in China, Spain, France, Sweden, Australia, Japan, Canada...

-- Wealthy students don't need public teachers (have never needed them) they have hired private teachers (some virtual, but some in person for younger students), private tutors in all subjects, private coaches to keep them active and healthy. But most students are paying the consequences of the BUSD's and BFT's ignorance and ineptitude.

-- We have had depression become a challenge both for adults and students in our household. -- Everyone is feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and not getting a healthy amount of physical activity or social interaction.

-- More anxiety and depression.

-- it has been terrible. Why aren't teachers essential workers?! They are essential.

-- My child is doing well.

-- My child has done very well with distance learning. She has a bubble of friends (3) on the outside to balance the social aspects. The split of 3 and 3 classes has worked really well, as she can focus better on what 3 classes she is currently attending. That is the best aspect of this remote program, really works well.

-- It has made me more bored, tired, and sad.

-- Student has so much anxiety. Even panic attacks.

-- Misses friends, etc., but managing all right.

-- Child has become a bit unmotivated although is able to go to class and complete what is assigned

-- Isolated, not socializing at all during school/class time.

-- Hard to separate distance learning from social isolation generally.

-- My sons frustration that school is not in person, no sports, impersonal, lack of social interaction, lack of motivation the list goes on, loss of education hours

-- Lack of in person school

-- She’s doing okay emotionally. Physically she’s incredibly sedentary and that’s been hard.

-- Negatively - isolation , hopelessness

-- too much social isolation and lack of physical activity

-- He's disappointed that he's missing his varsity basketball and his teammates.

-- When I have the term with my harder classes, I feel overwhelmed by all the work I'm getting. Wednesdays are the hardest because I waste time procrastinating and then I have to cram everything in. I get pretty anxious just thinking about going back to those classes. It gets pretty bad towards the end of the term and I am always very happy to forget about those classes for a month.

-- Thankfully my son is doing ok however I often wonder how long that can last. He thrives off of being active in sports and we've turned his normally very engaged world completely upside down....with no clear end in site. We will continue to do all we can to keep a sense of balance and normalcy until he can return.

-- He is generally depressed all the time, feels overwhelmed with the amount of requirements. At the same time, feels he has lost his ability to communicate verbally because he is never given the opportunity to discuss topics.

-- She used to love school. She doesn't give a shit anymore. Our daughter is a good student, getting good grades, but this sucks. Please return to in-person classes as soon as staff have access to vaccines. It's a tough balance, we know. Outdoor classes in late spring/early summer would be great.

- There is no social life. None. There's no chance to make new friends, which is such a huge part of high school. I can't imagine being new to the school this year-- at least my kids have some friends from previous years. My kids are isolated and bored. Academically, there is no integrating of classroom concepts, which can occur in pre- or post-class informal chats, in the hallway, at lunch, etc.

- I have such little motivation to do my work.

- Very poorly - Academic impact, but above all Social impact

- no

- Very horribly. She’s depressed, sad. Isolated, unmotivated, angry, feels that it’s pointless and hopeless, misses her friends, feels the teachers only care about academics, she’s overwhelmed and now no longer interested in anything she used to be interested in (sports, clubs). She won’t engage with mental health because she’s new to BHS and tired of everything online. She’s so miserable and the help focuses on academics but her academics are struggling because of her mental health, not because of aptitude.

- hasn't affected

- Depression, apathy, social-emotional development. The effect has been significant and destructive, despite their continued good grades.

- Terrible, terrible for kids' mental health :( I’m afraid the effect of this period of time will have lasting implications for these kids. I’m even more afraid that schools won’t open at all this year.

- Fortunately, my daughter has been fine emotionally, though she misses seeing her friends and classmates.

- He's really bored, in general, being stuck at home. He was a lot more engaged before, but with SIP he's going a little nuts being stuck at home so much. However, it doesn't feel like a full blown depression. He's restless.

- He's coping fairly well, but definitely misses being at school in person and the social interaction with the broader school community

- Honestly he is doing really well. He has adapted to distance learning. He appreciates not having to commute to school and it saves him lots of time which enables him to spend much more time working on college applications and scholarships. It also removed him from the competition around college. Granted he is a mature senior and this would not have been true when he was younger and had classes that were harder for him such as math and sciences. Socially most of his friends are not from Berkeley High and he finds the social situation at Berkeley high to be too chaotic anyway. Of course, Covid is difficult and misses his friends, but he is very engaged in projects of his own making and is really thriving in that area and school is not an issue.

- Somethings are very frustrating to learn because it’s hard to ask questions over email or zoom, so I feel less confident in my learning abilities.

- No effect claimed by the student, financial insecurity stress for the parent

- My child actually seems to be surprisingly fine with it.

- Loneliness, disconnect

- Lonely, withdrawn, increasingly apathetic

- Apathetic. Not engaged. Moving on to college without a clear senior year feels off. Confidence in being successful in college is low.

- she is completely socially isolated and depressed

- Younger mentally bored. Older enjoys the alone time

- Definitely limited social development and club & sports interactions

- I would say overall my son is less stressed this year than in the previous year. The slowing down has helped him. However, he has had very little interaction with other students, and that I think is a downside.

- They both are sad not to be around classmates and friends.

- It is difficult for kids at this age to not have face to face interaction with their peers. I understand why and support it but am just explaining one of the side effects

- He is more negative/bored by school. But, he is vocal in his appreciation of the teachers that are offering more connection/ "play" time rather than intensively focusing on curriculum.

- Lack of connection to school and to other students. Increased anxiety and depression.

- We’ve been ok

- I’m not sure. In a way, focusing on just 3 classes at a time has helped with time management. It’s been a good way to step into high school. He seems pretty good, but I do think he’d prefer to go in person.

- terrible. went from being highly motivated to deeply depressed.

- My child is now clinically depressed & will not do anything.

- i miss life

- Negatively impacted

- My student misses being around live human beings his own age. He has yet to develop a circle of friends, so he is almost always alone, which is not healthy.

- My child’s mental health and emotional well being have improved significantly during distance learning. There is much less stress and school-related anxiety.

 

March 2019

Addressing Student Anxiety at BHS

Those who were at  the March 2019 PTSA meeting reached the consensus that one of the greatest deficiencies in how BHS handles student mental health issues was the absence of a clear path for parents and guardians to follow when their children’s anxiety became serious enough to necessitate school action. These 2 questionnaire responses are examples of the challenges shared by some parents at the meeting


 

My child no longer attends BHS. We transferred to BIS at the beginning of 10th grade. 9th grade was a year filled with great anxiety, precipitating illness, lack of self worth due to repeated bad test scores in math. The current experience at BIS lacks the depth of content in most subject areas but is FAR better than the anxiety produced by the experience by my daughter at BHS. I spend thousands of dollars on supplemental tutoring, and a good deal of my time to coordinate school outside of the minimal class time and support. I am a single working mother and can hardly afford to make this work, but I feel I have no other option. I can't imagine what other parents in a similar position end up doing, without the cultural capital that I have as an educator. BHS, my alma mater, should be a place where EVERYONE feels supported, comfortable and not sexually harassed or unable to succeed academically. I felt helpless at BHS as a parent. While several of my daughters teachers were quite communicative and accommodating, there just wasn't a decent structure in place to navigate harassment and the grand scope of BHS, especially for a student coming in from much smaller schools. Several of my daughters' friends have subsequently left BHS for BIS due to similar harassment, overwhelm and lack of self worth and school failure issues. While my daughter is doing well academically at BIS (due in no small measure to the outside supports I have put in place), I do not believe it is correct that this should be the path students must take to feel safe and valued. It is my great hope that the PTSA is doing will make a difference to the many incoming students suffering from similar issues in the vast sea of BHS. 

 

There should be a clear process for helping kids who are experiencing severe anxiety or other mental health issues at BHS, and a clear path forward for parents and students who are seeking accommodations in the midst of a student mental health crisis. It took many, many attempts and contact with a multitude of administrators at Berkeley High to get anyone to move forward on helping my daughter, who had a very clear diagnosis with all required documentation from doctors. And it would have taken much longer, or not even happened, if I had not made it my "second job" to advocate for her and stay on top of things. The lack of responsiveness was appalling and eye opening. What happens to kids whose parents can't decipher how to navigate this very unclear process? Or don't have the time and energy to do so in the midst of a family crisis? Or those who give up out of frustration? It should not be like this.

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