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Blog: Friday, May 28th, 2021

From the Heart: Student Voices About Learning During a Pandemic

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

In much the same way as last year, I have continued my meetings with students to get a deeper understanding of their experiences in our schools.  What has been different this year is that I am not able to meet with them in person, and my questions have largely been related to their experiences during the pandemic. What is not different is my commitment to modeling the importance of student voice and agency for our teachers and principals. What is also the same is the passion and honesty with which students speak about their experiences, what has worked for them, and what they hope for in the future.  My past practice involved pulling themes from the conversations and summarizing them, but the meeting I recently had with eight students from W.J. Mouat was so riveting that have decided to let their voices speak for themselves. 

What has gone well this year?

  • The longer classes have helped me a lot. I was surprised by the amount of support offered by my teachers. They have been so understanding.
  • I liked the fact that we have some time out of school because I got the chance to go to work in the afternoons.  I made the best of the three-hour morning class.
  • I can get extra help from teachers if I need it.  Teachers have more time for one-on-one support.
  • Teachers have been supportive. And with all the new technology, I have learned a lot and they have learned a lot, too.
  • Keeping the level of normalcy. School has helped to ground us during the pandemic.
  • Teachers have done really well with not putting so much stress on us.
  • I felt like with the quarter system I could actually and get right into my classes because I am not having to think about three other classes.  I can actually learn better and that gives more time for my teacher to support me and for me to do more independent learning. I have had a better experience this year, weirdly enough, because I have been able to take in everything.
  • Most teachers have worked it out. In your academic classes, you can do one lesson, and then we will take some time to do homework, and then we will do another lesson.  I think they have done well to make the time go by faster.
  • I don’t think there was one person in our (physics) class that failed because everyone had time to do the work.  They had time to understand it, and they had a teacher who was compassionate, made jokes and put himself at the same level as the students.  When you act with compassion, those are the teachers I remember more and I will tell my kids about. They are the teachers I learned the most from.
  • I learned so much because our teacher made it personal. He used stories from his life to teach us certain concepts so that we could retain it more. We did book learning and tactical learning where we got involved, we actually did stuff, we actually applied it into real life situations. We enjoyed it and we all did super well.
  • It really helped me when teachers were excited and enthusiastic about what they were teaching.  I would start getting excited.  It really depends on the teacher and how much they like their subject.
  • I feel like I have grown up tremendously in this one year alone. It’s been a taste of reality in terms of what university might be like.  No one is going to chase after me to hand in assignments.  I have learned to keep myself more accountable.

What has been difficult?

  • With the classes that we have online we cannot make the same kind of connection with the teachers because we are just hearing their voices.
  • A good teacher makes all the difference for me.  I think it’s definitely a teacher thing.  I had this class I had in person, but before when it was online I really did not relate to the class work because I really did not know the teacher or any of the other students. So it was really just a paper you would get to turn in by the end of the week and that was it. We needed more personality from the online experiences.
  • Teachers did not have enough time to see what your potential is in a specific course, to get to know you, so they could only judge you by a small time frame versus last year when they could get to know your character, who you are.  With the quarter system, there is no second first impression.
  • At the beginning of year and now, I would get anxious that I would get it (COVID). With the bathrooms and people not wearing their masks, I felt weird having to ask people to put on their mask. I felt uncomfortable and anxious with all that COVID stuff.
  • Getting to and from school was difficult because we take the bus. So having to wait for our parents to come pick us up until 4:30 in the afternoon sometimes was difficult. Rides has been an issue for sure.
  • I am quite COVID sensitive.  I am in a portable classroom and we don’t open the doors or window sometimes. We did not have hand sanitizer sometimes.  Things like that.  Cohorts have become more figurative rather than literal.
  • Before and after school, there are groups of students in a specific grade that huddle together and have their masks all the way down or under their noses. It gets to the point now where it’s frustrating.
  • Definitely the biggest impact for me has been how much our music program has been cut down because of COVID. Last year we had three concert band practices and two jazz band practices. This year we only have one practice and honestly, you would not think that one day would make a difference, but it does. …We sounded a lot better last year just because of that one extra day of practicing together as a group.
  • Online schooling, and the masks and the communication has been difficult.  I have a hard time understanding people when I cannot see their lips moving. The masks limit what I can hear from my teachers. After a while we just get tired of asking the teacher to repeat what she said.
  • My biggest struggle has been knowing that my classmates are not following regulations, and I can’t do anything about it. The cohort system is frustrating because I don’t get to see a lot of my family or friends.  I can’t do anything, but I know that the person I am sitting beside just went to a large party with about twenty of his friends, without masks.  It makes me angry because I am sacrificing so much.
  • It’s frustrating being in your cohort and wearing your mask for three hours, just to leave the classroom and see kids not wearing their masks or sitting in the hallway kissing each other.
  • The root of the issue is that when it was announced that we were going back to school this year in cohorts, a lot of my friends were outraged because no one bothered to ask our opinions. At 16, 17, 18, we are old enough to drive and stand up for ourselves in court. Maybe it would be nice if BC put out a questionnaire for us, asking what we thought.
  • Online school was the biggest struggle for me. I can’t work at home; my house is under construction. I don’t have a place in my home where I can work.  Thankfully, I found a place where I can work in school, but a lot of kids have not figured out how to ask for help with where they can do work.
  • Last year if you missed one day you would just miss one lesson from each class, but now if you miss a day, it’s three lessons that could be very important.

What have you learned through the pandemic that we need do more of going forward?

  • The fact that so much of our work has been more organized by our teachers super well.  I am able to look at everything I have to do and plan ahead. I really don’t feel that I crammed this year.  I know what’s coming and I feel prepared.
  • The faculty have been a lot more open with the students. We have been more in the loop with what the school is doing. I got an email where it had a survey about our thoughts on the quarter system. It’s nice to know the school is listening to some degree.
  • I like that teachers are allowing us to revisit concepts. Teachers are making online videos to allow us to study better.
  • A lot of students like the multiculturalism in our schools and how inclusive it is, and that has stayed true even during COVID.  It’s probably the most inclusive place I have been in.


By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.