How Has Covid Impacted Students’ Motivation in School?


Lily Cierpial

Alex Basmadjian doing school work

For many students, including myself, online school has taken a large toll on motivation for school and other activities. Last year, when Berkley students were in virtual school, many felt that school work wasn’t as important in their lives as it had been pre-pandemic. And for me personally, it felt like all assignments had many lenient rules. 

Feeling like school was an option to attend and participate in was definitely a weird feeling. This could have been due to the lack of punishment we endured for attendance and late work. Once we got back to in-person school, switching from three to six classes a day was a bit stressful, and being in person with a full class was very overwhelming for students at first. 

With all of the regular school stress back in business now, the reality and the expectations that come with going to school may cause feelings of agony and tiredness when being there. Yes, before COVID-19, school was pretty exhausting, but now, after COVID, many students feel discombobulated by their day-to-day tasks and assignments. The struggle has been real for many students as we try to get back that drive and work ethic that we once had. Motivating ourselves to find the effort to do school every day is often hard for many of us. 

So, is this lack of motivation unique to me and other BHS students, or is it having a more universal effect on our age group? Licensed psychologist Rachel Cavallaro confirmed that this lack of motivation students are facing is not just a happy coincidence, in fact it is actually caused by COVID. She said, “It is likely that COVID fatigue is affecting age groups differently if we consider the lack of motivation for daily tasks in relation to attention spans.” Cavallaro then went on to explain how this problem is not unique to students. She stated, “Children and young adults are going to have a harder time paying attention in school, adults are going to have a harder time completing work tasks as well.” Cavallaro’s overall point was that completing work on time, paying attention, interacting with classmates, and even staying awake are all difficult tasks for students. Getting through the long and dreadful six hours everyday has become quite the burden for many. Undeniably, some of this feeling and behavior has to be blamed on COVID, as many problems are.  

But why would going through the pandemic cause a decrease in attention span? Crystal Burwell, director of outpatient services for Newport Healthcare Atlanta says, “COVID led to many people experiencing cognitive overload, whereby our brains become short-circuited due to being inundated with information our brains are trying to process.” As Burwell mentioned, the return to in person school made many students feel overloaded due to the difference in work loads from online to in person.  

In my opinion, over the time when we were doing school virtually, many of us students unconsciously allowed ourselves to relax a little bit, maybe a bit too much. And this caused that drive and attention span for school to go way down. I mean, think back to where we were a year ago, even the thought of sitting in class day after day tired out my brain. After talking to a few Berkley students about their work ethic throughout high school, many concluded that their drive and passion for school has changed after coming back from virtual school. 

Senior Emily Stephenson shared her perspective saying, “Since we have been back in person I would say that I have a more relaxed mindset, and especially now because I am a second semester senior.” Stephenson went on to compare her work ethic throughout pre-pandemic, during online, and her currently. She explains, “Before we had online school I was almost always ahead. Now, it’s easier to get behind because I’m not super motivated, and I think for me that’s because of the larger amount of work in each class which can be a bit overwhelming.” She went on, “Also, with the return of school sports and other after school activities I have less time for all of this work. During freshman year I used to be super good at memorizing information quickly and since we never had to do that during online school I am not very good at that anymore.” 

Alex Basmadjian agrees, and shares what his perspective has been as a junior. “My drive and mentality for school has been less motivating ever since online school, I think that’s probably because online assignments were always accepted late, and learning in front of a screen was harder to attain new information.” He also touched on how this affected his work-ethic for this year. “I felt very unprepared for junior year. Skipping class has been more of a normalized thing for me because I get unmotivated to go to Spanish a lot.”

Both Stephenson and Basmadjian said it: students are just less motivated after the return from virtual school. However, we must endure day after day of six-hour learning, finding the positive side of things is always beneficial. Senior Audrey Hambrick shares that her mentality after the return has changed as well, but for the better. Hambrick states, “After I got all A’s my junior year from online school, when we came back in person, I wanted to get even more A’s, so it inspired me to work harder and get even better grades this semester.” 

From numerous students’ perspectives, skipping class has become more of a regular occurrence this year. After returning from online school, many students see school in a new light, and as that of less importance, probably because we were so used to the leniency during online, and the transition back is hard. Having the ability to lay in bed during class, camera off as you please, definitely feels much different than sitting in the cold hard chairs at school for six hours a day five days a week. In her interview, Stephenson shared that before COVID, she would rarely miss school, but after the return from online, she, like many, doesn’t care as much about their attendance, and she just calls herself out. 

Yet, Stepheson isn’t alone with this one. Junior Jonah Chupack seconds this, “I, like many students, leave school early many times throughout the week. Prior to COVID, back in freshman year, I definitely don’t remember being this exhausted with school at the end of the day. I often feel overworked throughout the day, which makes me not want to complete assignments at home.” 

Although many school weeks can feel like an eternity, being back in person school gives us the time we need to be high schoolers, and learn more about our constantly progressing lives.