July 24, 2024

A Zoom Call a Day Does Not Keep the Procrastination Away


     Picture this: you’re sitting in a Zoom meeting for your math class at 9:40 a.m. as your teacher goes over the notes for the week. Mindlessly writing your notes down, you begin to realize that you do not remember nor understand what you just wrote. Your mind was somewhere else, pondering about the millions of distractions you are surrounded with. 
     Maybe you do not need to channel your imagination to create this scenario; it’s been playing itself out in the lives of millions of students across the nation for the past three months. 
     Even with hybrid learning starting, students face the same dilemmas: staying focused, organized, and motivated while participating in virtual classes. 
     Patricia Montgomery-Peng, Advanced Placement Psychology teacher, explores the various ways most students can combat temporary burn-out and an overwhelming sense of confusion. 
     When participating in virtual class sessions, there is often an array of distractions that can capture our attentionfor example, watching Netflix or scrolling through our phones. In a survey conducted with 178 students, it was found that 89% of students used technology during their classes. “Cognitively, we cannot multitask. We can multitask when it comes to cognitive and motor skills. For example, we can walk and chew gum while thinking of song lyrics. That’s motor, motor, and cognitive. That we can do, but we can’t think of song 
lyrics and read a book at the same time,” Montgomery-Peng said. Keeping this analogy in mind, it becomes clear that we cannot direct our attention to two cognitive tasks at once. 
     It’s important to note that distractions are not limited to the usage of technology, but our environment as well. If possible, dedicating a space to study proves to be worthwhile for some students. “I always find that when I’m doing work from my bed, it’s ten times harder to concentrate so I end up moving to a desk,” senior Ramina David said. Similarly to David, in a poll of 200 students, 60% of them preferred to work from their desks. David’s experience is explained by Montgomery-Peng, who introduces the science of the reticular formation. “The reticular formation is essentially a set of nerve fibers that keep you awake or make you sleepy. When you get sleepy during class, you want to make sure you’re sitting up and your head is being supported by your neck,” Montgomery-Peng said. The act of sitting up straight and being in a position where your muscles and joints are being put to use activate the reticular formation. 
     Jerome M. Siegel with The Brain Research Institute at the University of Los Angeles, California conducted a thorough study of reticular formation activity under the publication The Functions of Sleep. His studies suggested that motor activities were correlated with consciousness and being awake. Scientifically, it has been proven that if you make an effort to physically get out of bed, attentiveness and awareness will increase. 
     Many students have tackled the problem of being unable to focus, but are presented with a series of new challenges: the seemingly infinite list of assignments and responsibilities that looms over them. Senior Laura Grum, former AP Psychology student, provides tips that she credits her success to during the online-learning experience. “I always make sure to write notes in class and to email my teachers when I don’t understand something we’ve gone over or feel behind track. I recommend having a planner where you can write down all of your assignments because mine keeps me on top of my work,” Grum said. 
     Grum’s tips are an example of her actively using her executive functioning organizational skills to her benefit. “Having visual and physical reminders with small and attainable goals is key,” Montgomery-Peng said.
     Sitting behind a computer screen for seven hours, five days a week can be an exhausting and mentally tolling responsibility. While a major aspect to improving your e-learning experience is self advocacy, it’s important to know that social and emotional services are always available. 
     Richard Lyon, Director of MaineStay Youth & Family Services, speaks of the various ways this organization serves its community members. “In addition to counseling and psychiatric services, we also offer a number of different group programs, such as anger management, parenting, and anxiety,” Lyon said.
     Beyond this organization, the Maine Township community also provides one-on-one support from your school counselors, counseling from school psychologists and social workers, and other community-based general counseling services. “We are all in this together,” Grum said. 
Maine West Resource Guide: http://mainewestss.weebly.com/uploads/6/5/1/5/65158357/community_resource_booklet_-_website_parent_17-18.pdf)




Written by Maha Zaidi
Illustration by Kira Palmer

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