“Computers! Man, they’ll be acting! He laughed.
Wilson is finishing the year in distance training, but said she is ready to go back in person.
“With this year coming to an end, I think I want to go back,” Wilson said. “I want to have an experience in high school, to be able to go to graduation dance, to make good friends. I really don’t want to be at home for the last year. ”
Distance learning due to COVID-19 has made it easier to put it back in school. Wilson has managed to keep grades and even volunteered on the student council and as a peer tutor. But he knows that the lack of structure has made it easier for his classmates to lose deadlines and let work pile up. He said he knows first-hand the social isolation that makes it harder to shake off a funk when you feel bad.
“I feel that people need emotional support. There are too many students who don’t trust the school. There are some students who just give up, “Wilson said.” It’s so hard and sad that you have to base your future on this present when it all happens. It’s like, ‘I’m going through all this. My future will be better.’ ”
In addition to the pandemic, there was also the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer a year ago and, more recently, the murder of Daunte Wright by a Brooklyn Center police officer. Gun violence has increased in Minneapolis; three children on the north side have been shot in recent weeks.
Wilson director Mauri Friestleben knows it has been a lot for students to absorb all the trauma.
“Not only did we close or close because of COVID, but we had an important and important event, especially those of us here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with the assassination of George Floyd,” Friestleben said. “We haven’t prosecuted collectively (all of this) in person.”
It’s not just Minneapolis. In a recent University of Minnesota survey, sixth through twelve elementary students across the state said getting help with mental health was one of the biggest challenges they faced.
And a recent national report found that young people’s mental health had worsened over the past year. Nearly 10 percent of 11- to 17-year-olds report having major major depression. The study also found that during the pandemic, young people have been more likely than any other age group to score symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety and depression.
But the transition to face-to-face learning carries with it its own challenges.
Kristen Wiik, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Hennepin County Medical Center, says her team was working with children before the pandemic. There is now a long waiting list and the hospital is referring many children to other practices. He wants more schools to have mental health services in school and predicts that the demand for mental health support has just begun.
“I think we are still there. We are still in the middle of a storm, “said Wiik. “One thing we’re anticipating is that the transition for many kids in regular full-time school will be very tough.”
At Hopkins West Junior High, social worker Tina Flowers said the first few weeks in person have been a mixed bag. Many students were excited to return with their classmates and teachers, but those early days were also flooded with incidents: children tested positive for COVID-19, child protection calls, students mentioned they were thinking about suicide. .
“When the kids started coming back to the building, it seemed like the mental health needs were so high,” Flowers said, “They definitely amplified.”
This stress comes out in several ways for students.
A St. Francis, Superintendent Beth Giese said elementary students don’t know how to act in school or follow directions after being away for so long. He has noticed an increase in depression and vaping among teens at his school. And the number of students who do not pass individual classes is unprecedented.
“The students who come back now are seeing behaviors we had never seen before,” Giese said. “Lots of explosions, skipping class. … Like all of us, they have either picked up some very good skills to work from home or they have picked up some bad habits.
Aaliyah Murray, a tenth-grader who lives in Fridley, said this year she has struggled to learn new material. Most of his classes are pre-recorded videos. The lack of schedules and interactions with teachers makes her lose.
“It was very stressful. I haven’t even had a full year of high school, “said Murray. “This year has been complete online. I haven’t learned anything. I don’t even have Google Meets with my school. They just give me all my work during the semester – they make me do it. It’s very hard, and it’s like there’s no motivation. ”
But Murray has found a sense of purpose in returning other students and creating his own online community when he couldn’t take advantage of any in a school building.
In the spring of 2020 she started the Instagram account MN Teen Activists to give students a place to talk about the racism they experienced at school and in their communities. The Instagram page has grown exponentially to over 20,000 followers.
Murray has helped organize food gatherings, and in April he helped organize a statewide school walk attended by thousands of his classmates. She is proud of the work and learning she has done on her own and with classmates.
“Youth has a lot of power. Our voices (should be) heard, “Murray said.” For me, it’s about seeing people come together and have unity. That’s the most important thing to me. ”
North Community High School welcomed students to the building last month. Director Friestleben said she can say children wear a lot.
“It’s like this ubiquitous state of feeling overwhelmed,” Friestleben said. “We know intellectually, ‘Wow, we’re subjected to a lot of things.’ But we don’t really know how to release or process it, so it’s going to come out of very weird secondary forms.”
Friestleben tries to make returning to face-to-face classes as easy as possible, allowing students to spend half a day if they need to. He also tries to help his students recognize that Floyd’s murder is weighing on them all, but there is no need to paralyze them.
“It simply came to our notice then. We are in the city of George Floyd. We are in the city of a murder that shook the world, “Friestleben said.” So when we get to school, do we find that we have very high shoulders and a narrow neck? Is it because we are in the city of George? Floyd “.
When Friestleben thinks about what his students and staff need in the coming weeks and months, he focuses on getting his educators the mental health training they need to take care of themselves and the children in their classrooms. But the idea of trying to “catch the kids” academically after a difficult year is being considered.
“We’re not looking at students who now have, you know, ‘hashtag two years ago.’ No, you just have to take that pressure off the child. Take that pressure off the teacher. Take that pressure off the parents,” Friestleben said. “The children have learned a lot this year. It may not be a textbook, but they have learned a lot. ”
It’s the end of the school year, the pandemic is waning and next week a year ago Floyd was murdered. But Friestleben knows the work for his community is just beginning.
If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com for a list of additional resources.