As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Ontario and emerge across schools, students are more inclined to opt for learning online. While the health and safety of students are at a lower risk, the current problem becomes: How do we ensure that academic achievement and personal development happen at home?
Since March, it has been normal for us all to feel frustrated when encountering new difficulties. As a busy grade 12 student dealing with a hectic course schedule, extracurriculars, and college applications, it has been a lot to take in. I’m sharing some resources and experiences that I have found helpful, in the hopes that it will help you through the school year too.
1. Virtual leadership opportunities
Many extracurricular activities and volunteer options have been cancelled or are unavailable, but there are still many ways to keep engaged with your school and community. For students graduating in the 2020–2021 school year, the Ministry of Education is revising the 40-hour community service graduation requirement to a minimum of 20 hours. However, this reduction doesn’t apply to students in other grades.
If you’re unable to find virtual volunteering opportunities that suit your interests or skills, checking with your school guidance department can be a good starting place. They’re likely to provide you with a plethora of academic resources that should be present on your school website, which will include possible volunteering platforms. You can also check out the websites of your city or town, as well as community centres, local organizations, and the public library. Even though most of the positions may be in-person instead of online, you can still browse for opportunities to consider after social distancing eases up.
If these methods do not provide you with enough information, a reliable and extensive online platform would be Spark Ontario. This network provides you with an abundant list of volunteering opportunities, many of which are virtual, such as producing social media content for non-profit organizations, and writing letters to senior care facilities.
If you would like to accomplish more than the 40 hours of community service, it is a good idea to visit social media platforms and find youth organizations that are recruiting new members. There are many diverse student-run networks that raise awareness and fundraise for charitable causes, focus on professional fields of studies, or help youth develop new skills and interests. 1UP Toronto and Urban Minds are great opportunities for students who are interested in pursuing a career related to city building, or those who simply have a passion for making your community a better place. Many of these organizations host a variety of events throughout the year, or frequently recruit new members. They provide you with leadership opportunities that connect like-minded individuals in your community and across the globe!
2. Academic resources
Although online learning is necessary to everyone’s safety, there was a series of overwhelming adjustments for educators and students that have had an effect on the quality of our education. Even though teachers are trying their best to provide students with sufficient help, it is possible that we are still encountering difficulties outside of class time. In these scenarios, it is very beneficial to seek additional resources from peers or other reliable sources, especially for students who don’t have access to extra tutoring sessions.
In many high schools, including my own, there is a network of peer tutoring that students can sign up for, either to teach or receive academic support. This is great for students in lower grades, as they can be tutored by senior students who excel in a particular course. There are many similar networks run by local community libraries and those that are led by groups of students. Getting peer support is important; we’re likely to teach each other in a more interactive and comprehensible style, because we have encountered similar problems in the past as one another.
For those who need more content-based support, it is important to find the proper source of information. While academic resources are plentiful, evaluating the reliability of a source and finding a format that best suits your learning can be challenging. One of the most popular platforms among students is Khan Academy, which provide a variety of courses through different formats including videos, articles, and quizzes. The organization and interface are also user-friendly, since students can select their grade or a specific academic program such as the AP program. Other online-learning platforms that I’ve enjoyed include Coursera, edX and Udacity. It is important to compare these platforms to find out which suits your learning style best.
Another easily accessible source is YouTube, which is helpful for those who learn best with visually interactive content. Besides Khan Academy videos, be sure to check out Crash Course and TED-Ed, as they provide content in almost every subject. It is also important to find a video that applies to your curriculum or a specific course. For example, I would search the keywords “IB Biology” along with the topic that I want to study, to ensure that the content is strictly focused on what I need to learn.
For students who do a lot of research, schools usually subscribe to a variety of databases and e-resources. Some common ones include Gale, EBSCO, and Infobase. Don’t hesitate to ask your guidance counsellors, teachers, and librarians to gain access to the resources that you need. Throughout my high school studying, I’ve discovered that the school and the internet actually provides you with more than enough help for you to be academically successful!
3. Finding a balance in life
Academics are important, but they should not be overwhelming. With so much time spent in our homes, and many people finding the work-life balance challenging, it is important that you find time for personal development but give yourself moments of self-care every day.
Daily physical activity can be difficult due to restrictions of the quarantine and social distancing procedures, but it is easy to keep up with an hour of light exercises at home. Personally, I find it relaxing to spend half an hour doing yoga every day before going to sleep. I would recommend developing an exercise routine! As good as exercise is for the body, it’s also beneficial for mental health and focus.
I believe that high school is one of the best opportunities to explore interests and passions. You may learn more about yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses, which can all help as you search for life path that is right for you. I’m currently studying chemistry and biology, which is part of the reason I would like to follow a career path in the field of science and is the direction that I’m prepared to take. However, my interests are more focused in the arts, including graphic design, photography, and music. School clubs and extracurriculars have provided me with opportunities to help decide what I enjoy as work, and what I enjoy as hobbies. During my free time, I continue to explore more artistic activities such as bullet journalling, which helps to relieve study stress.
Besides doing what you already know and like, keep yourself open to new possibilities. I’ve enhanced my cooking skills during COVID-19 by making dinner for my family. In hopes of being able to travel in the not too-distant future, I am also planning for my graduation trip to South Korea and Japan, and have started to learn some new languages.
COVID-19 has been and continues to be an incredibly overwhelming time for everyone, and can be particularly daunting for anyone facing a turning point in their life. It can also be a positive time for self-reflection, includes learning more about yourself and what you want to achieve.