As school returns to “normal,” teachers observe new student behaviors

Students in Janet Heape’s social studies class use phones and laptops during a classroom assignment. Credit: The Pirates’ Hook

Although some students are still getting COVID and many chose to continue masking, most students say the Riverside experience seems more like identical to 2019 than ‘21 or ‘22.

Unless it isn’t. 

Has the pandemic left lingering effects on Riverside students’ mental health and socialization?

With remote learning in 2020-2021, and a year of masks and adjustment in 2021-2022, this school year is the first to resemble pre-pandemic life. 

“Socially, I think there has been more progress,” Social Studies teacher and Riverside alumni Anna Allman said. “Now that we have gotten back to school, kids are getting back into the swing of things.” 

However, Allman said there does seem to be an increase in phone-dependence. 

“Kids are quicker to retreat into their cell phone, but that’s not to say they aren’t communicating with people when they do that,” she said. 

“One of the drawbacks that has occurred through covid is the reliance on technology to communicate,” guidance Counselor Adrienne Haith agreed. “The cell phone has been the main source of communication versus actual face-to-face communication. That can create an isolating feeling… once you remove half of a person’s face, that removes half of the communication.”

Guidance Counselor Portia Jacobs, who has worked at Riverside for eight years, has observed that some students are more withdrawn than they were pre-COVID. 

“COVID kind of gave people permission to be lazy,” Jacobs said. “People were in the habit of not being as social and not doing as much. Also, I think some people are more introverted than they realized they were. They found they liked their own company.” 

Many students come to Jacobs to discuss mental health struggles. 

“During COVID, we tried so hard to break the stigma. People are more comfortable sharing when they’re struggling,” she said. 

Allman agrees. 

“I think there’s more willingness to discuss mental health problems, and more focus on how to support students in that way, and that’s part of a cultural change.” 

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