Teachers, parents and students come together for “Disrupted: How COVID-19 Changed Education”

By Sydney Johnson

As an unprecedented school year ended, PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs hosted “Disrupted: How COVID Changed Education,” an hour-long virtual special, focused on the impact of the pandemic on schools, students, and educators across the nation.

Hosted by PBS NewsHour Senior Correspondent Amna Nawaz, the show created a community conversation about the issues most important to students and educators during the pandemic including mental health, learning loss, disrupted school schedules, life after high school, and social media.

Eleventh grader Tiffany Rodriguez in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania talked about coming back to school after a three-month absence to support her family.  Two other students who experienced learning loss were also profiled during the show.

Three students, Kaci Amaral, Ryan Carter, and Hannah Ghebrelul, discussed the extra roles they had to take on to help take care of their younger siblings during the pandemic with NewsHour correspondent William Brangham. Each student discussed the transition they experienced from in-person instruction to virtual learning.

“I have an 11-year-old brother in the fifth grade and a 9-year-old sister in the fourth grade. We’re all crammed in a fifteen-foot room all day for the entire school year,” said Amaral.

Carter shared what it’s been like taking care of his younger brother with Autism.

“People with Autism tend to be more strict and hard on themselves to get what they want out of something. Giving them patience and time will definitely allow them to participate just as well as any other student in the class,” he explained.

In a different interview, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona answered questions from students across the country about how the administration will tackle education as the country adjusts to “a new normal.”

The event also included the voices of many educators across the country describing how teaching for them has changed over the past year.

“This will be my nineteenth year of teaching but it feels like my first year,” shared New York educator Sari Beth Rosenberg

To explore the growing teen mental health crisis, the hosts of  SRL’s new podcast, On Our Minds with Noah and Zion, discussed how schools should support students’ mental health with counselor Edith Porter from Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Delaware.

New York-based journalist Taylor Trudon led a panel with social media content creators Curtis Roach, Taylor Cassidy, and John Barnes, who witnessed their following grow during the pandemic as more teens started to turn to different platforms for inspiration.

The special ended with a conversation featuring graduating high school seniors on how the pandemic impacted their last year in high school, and their plans for the future.

To watch the entire show, click here

Excerpts from viewers who engaged in the live chat on YouTube with Nawaz and the entire SRL community:

“Thank you all at NewsHour & Reporting Labs for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate seeing such a layered and nuanced view on education in the pandemic”

“I have to admit it has been hard with learning, especially online” 

“Thank you to you all for your positive energy, resilience, and courage. You are our future.”

“Student voice matters! And it’s so great to see PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs provide tools and platforms for young people to speak up and lead.”

“Wonderful dialogue this evening! So much initiative”