After A More Than A Year At Home, Students' Social Skills May Need Work
NOEL KING, HOST:
For many American school kids, this week is their first time inside of a classroom in a year and a half because of the pandemic. How are they feeling about that? Colorado Public Radio's Jenny Brundin asked some of them.
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JENNY BRUNDIN, BYLINE: Seventeen-year-old Anoushka Jani is excited to go back to school. She's been isolated for almost a year and a half.
ANOUSHKA: So I was in my room my entire school year, like seven hours a day in front of a screen in my room. It's dark in the winter. It's cold. It's lonely.
BRUNDIN: Depression and anxiety in her and her friends crept up, but she pushed forward. She played her violin more, even running to the nearest Dunkin Donuts for a coffee or a bike ride helped. She wants to work on her social skills this year. She says many teens feel stunted. She was 16, a sophomore, when the pandemic started. Now she's suddenly a senior.
ANOUSHKA: I turn 18 in two months, and that's also really scary because I've spent my entire 17th year in isolation, primarily. And I'm almost an adult, and I don't know how to adjust properly yet.
BRUNDIN: She knows she'll get there, but now she's nervous about the delta variant.
BRUNDIN: Thirteen-year-old Madeus Frandina says wearing masks will help schools stay in person. He just switched schools after the one he was enrolled in announced that masks were optional.
MADEUS: I, for one, do not want to be quarantined every other week and be stuck at home doing online. I'm kind of done with that.
BRUNDIN: Madeus doesn't get adults arguing over masks or whether to get a vaccine, but he's learned why some Black Americans might be skeptical of science and doctors.
MADEUS: I could understand why some people - like people of color, for example - might be hesitant to get the vaccine, and I understand that. But like some people, primarily white people, I feel like we could do a better job of just, like, accepting science and not doubting it.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hi, Codi. How was school?
BRUNDIN: Fifteen-year-old Codi Mendenhall has already been in school for a few weeks.
CODI: My first week was craziness.
BRUNDIN: Codi has cerebral palsy. She speaks through a communication device. More recently, she's had epilepsy and fatigue. She couldn't make it through the whole day that first week. But vaccinated and wearing a mask, she feels good about what's to come.
CODI: I want to get good grades and hang out with friends. I missed everybody.
BRUNDIN: Kids I talked to are desperate to stay in school to be around friends. Incoming seventh-grader Xaveon Miller hasn't been inside a school since fifth grade. Online, well...
XAVEON: It didn't really feel normal to me.
BRUNDIN: Still, he got straight A's last year and hopes to continue that streak. I ask him how he feels about masks.
XAVEON: I feel nonchalant about it.
BRUNDIN: Ten-year-old Clarissa Coleman is excited to make friends and to learn all her times tables and division. I ask if she's worried about anything.
BRUNDIN: She tilts her braided, blue-hair banded head back to think.
CLARISSA: ...Not really.
BRUNDIN: Clarissa finally confesses she's worried about whether there'll be a crossing guard when she walks home. But she thinks she'll be less distracted in school.
CLARISSA: I don't think they have TVs in school.
Plus online, Clarissa didn't like it when her internet was down. Teachers sometimes got frustrated. But the main reason school is better in person?
CLARISSA: Because the teacher's sound won't go out because she's not a computer.
BRUNDIN: Kids always tell it like it is.
For NPR News, I'm Jenny Brundin.
(SOUNDBITE OF TEEN DAZE'S "BY LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.