We Polled Kids and Asked Them the Best (and Worst) Things About Distance Learning

Dumpster fire. Epic Fail. “A bad joke.” Much has been written about remote learning from the harried perspective of parents and teachers. And most of the adult-driven feedback ranges from “challenging” to “a disaster and terrible for children.” There is also a small but growing contingent of families for whom the silver linings of doing school at home are stacking up. And yet, lost in all the hand-wringing and hair-tearing are the voices of the ones swept up in this sea change: kids—50% of whom are still learning remotely full-time this fall.

We wanted to know what they think of their ongoing virtual reality. So we asked them.* The great news is that kids are adapting, and in some cases, thriving in online and hybrid learning environments. The qualifier is that the population we queried is relatively privileged. Their answers do not necessarily reflect the worst tragedies of our collective circumstances: Students who have lost parents to Covid-19. Mothers leaving the workplace in droves. Tech inequity. Untold numbers of “lost” children—some who can’t attend school because they’re caring for younger siblings; uncounted others falling through the cracks of the class and race divide. It’s also clear that all of these kids are challenged by endless hours on screens, insufficient social interactions and technical difficulties. But they are powering through with a sense of optimism and grace that, quite frankly, should be a lesson to us all.

So hey, if you’re looking for a little levity, and evidence that (some?) kids around the country are (kinda, sorta?) all right, look no further. Here, in their own words, some K-12 perspectives on the perks and pitfalls of school in 2020.

*To ensure privacy, at the request of their parents, some kids’ names have been changed.


Remote learning last Spring “was very hard because my brother had to homeschool too and there was only one mommy to teach us. The only thing I liked about it was that I could see the wonderful faces of my friends through Zoom. I wish that school was regular again. I miss playing on the playground and doing the monkey bars with my friends. Until the shutdown, it was one of the best years of school I had in my whole life.”
—Lilah, 1st Grade. Opted out of hybrid public school for a learning pod this fall.

“What I like about Zoom school is I have more free time with my family. I don’t like that it’s hard to know what your homework is. And when you really want to say something, sometimes the host mutes you.”
—Ascher, 1st Grade. Private school. Full-time remote since last March.

The worst thing about remote learning last Spring? “Basically almost everything.”
—Andrew, 2nd Grade. NY. Private school. Hybrid, four full days a week.

Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Remote learning last Spring “was the worst thing ever. It was too hard to figure out how to use the Google slides. I liked that I could mute myself and turn off my camera.”
—Savannah, 3nd Grade. Her public school is now open for full-time, in-person learning.

“I like remote learning because we are becoming very tech savvy. I can learn to how type faster and get my work done quicker than in a usual school day. I also like how you can do Zoom, which is like more than one FaceTime. (If you don’t know what Zoom is.) If we had to go all-remote again, I would not like that we can’t see our friends anymore. I also don’t like staring at a screen for six straight hours. It gives me a headache and makes me feel tired and stressed.”
—Henry, 3rd Grade. Public school. Hybrid, five half-days a week.

“I like Zoom school, because there is less actual school time. I also like being home and being able to FaceTime with my friends and play video games. I don’t like when your friends try to talk and glitch out.”
—Jake, 3rd Grade. CA. Private school. Full-time remote since last March.


“What I like about remote learning is that I have more time to do my work. I also like that I get to use my computer more, and I can be more independent. What I dislike is that I can’t work with my friends. I also dislike that I can’t have lunch with others. It can get pretty boring eating lunch by yourself.”
—Amy, 5th Grade. Public school. Hybrid, five half-days a week.

“I like that you don’t have to wake up really early and you don’t have to pack your backpack. I don’t like that you have to be on the computer all the time and you can’t stand up unless you have a short break.”
—Claire, 5th Grade. Public school. Full-time remote since last Spring.

“I loved remote school [last Spring] because I could do all my work on the first day, and then have the rest of the week off to do whatever I wanted. I watched a lot of TV and TikTok. And when Covid-19 got a little better, I went to my friends’ porches, and then we started going on bike rides. I didn’t like remote school because I couldn’t see all of my friends. And I hated the [online classroom] Google meets, so I didn’t attend any of them. And it was so annoying, because everyone thought I was sick when I didn’t attend! I also didn’t like missing my 5th grade graduation and all of the trips we were supposed to take at the end of the year. But otherwise, it was great and I liked it.”
—Sadie, 6th Grade. Her public school is now open for full-time, in-person learning.

“I liked how it was really easy to finish work quickly. But sometimes there were problems joining [online classes] and that was kind of annoying.”
—Marlowe, 6th Grade. Her public school is now open for full-time, in-person learning.

mixetto/Getty Images

Dad: What do you dislike about distance learning?
Adam: “Why? Are you filling out a survey?”
Dad: What do you like about distance learning?
Adam: “Wait, why? Do we have to go back to school?”

**********Dad tries again…***********

Adam: “I like that I don’t have to get up at 7 in the morning and get on the bus and physically go to school. I also like not having to carry all these school supplies around all day in my backpack.”
—Adam, 9th Grade. Public school. Full-time remote since last March.

Dad: What do you like about distance learning?
Sean: “I don’t have to attend school.”
Dad: What do you dislike about distance learning?
Sean: “It’s still school though.”
—Sean, 10th Grade. Public school. Full-time remote since last March.

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