The unprecedented pandemic has reshaped the classroom experience for students across the country. In the move away from physical classrooms, many students have experienced distance-learning—but few have published a competition winning poem about it.
Samantha Rodriguez, an eighth grade student at Ánimo Jefferson Charter Middle School, won second place for her poem “Advice For Online School” in the annual Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition. In this piece, Rodriguez illustrates the challenges students like herself have faced when tackling distance learning. Rodriguez writes:
“The distractions at home make it hard to hear. You type and click, link after link. Your wrist is
sprained and your eyes, they sting. Your posture is worse. Your head, it hurts,
This online school thing feels like a curse. ”
Throughout the poem, Rodriguez wields a frank and empathetic tone as she describes the situation of many students. Her words reassure that they are both seen and understood. By the end she offers solutions to help them get through their day and reminds them to take care of themselves:
“I know it’s hard. Do the most you can, don’t overwork yourself
and get mad, Your health matters more.”
Rodriguez wrote “Advice For Online School” with an honest heart, but admits she was unsure how her poem would be received by the panelists: “I had a feeling that maybe some people would think that my poem was an excuse to be lazy, but I thought it was a real issue that a lot of students deal with, since I’ve dealt with it a lot.”
Rodriguez has been enthralled with literature and art for much of her life. “I’ve been writing creatively since I was seven. I’ve always had notebooks, where I’d write little stories, because I love watching cartoons, I love art, and I love to write little books with pictures,” Rodriguez said. As she looks towards her future, Rodriguez plans to become a cartoonist. “I already have characters, I already know what the story would be about. Now, I’m writing other things, so that I can be ready to write a full show one day,” she added.
Rodriguez’s guiding teacher for the Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition, Carl Finer, lauded her for both brevity and bravery. “I appreciate her clear-headedness, and willingness to not dodge tough issues, tough questions—and to confront the right word, and retell things in such an honest way,” Finer said.
“I learned how to find the right information, use my social skills, and write accurate information with Mr. Finer,” said Rodriguez, who has also been a student in Finer’s English and journalism courses.
Finer, who has served as an Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition panelist for the last four years, believes the Ánimo Jefferson English Department has prepared students like Rodriguez for success in writing. “We’ve worked really hard to have coherence in our plans around writing from sixth through eighth grade. It’s been a focus for a long time, but we’ve seen the importance of it,” he said. “I think through the writing electives like drama and composition, our students are not turning in work just for school, they’re going to do it because they want to do it.”
At Green Dot, we prioritize learning opportunities that help unlock students' creative spirit and develop the self-confidence they’ll need on their path towards success in college, leadership, and life. Through programs like the Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition, we’re teaching students the power of their individual voices, and giving them a platform to express their unique views and experiences. In combination with our schools’ rigorous academics, extracurricular activities, and college-going cultures, we’re meeting students where they are and furthering our mission to help transform public education.