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Studying during Coronavirus: Portlaoise College student on prepping for state exams in a pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting almost every aspect of our lives at the moment.

Bar those working in essential services, the rest of the population is off work and instructed to stay in their homes for the majority of the time until Tuesday May 5 at the earliest.

While around 120,000 Irish Leaving and Junior Cert students have seen their lives turned upside down in the last month.

Those set to sit the Leaving Cert, about 55,000 of them, have been particularly inconvenienced as the one set of exams they have spent the past five or six years preparing for are now in jeopardy.

They have been out of the school setting since March 13 after they were closed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. And yesterday, it was announced that the schools would remain closed ‘until further notice’.

On March 19, the Department of Education announced that Leaving Cert and Junior Cert orals and practical exams were cancelled and all students would be awarded full marks.

While yesterday, it was confirmed the Leaving Cert exams set to take place in June have been postponed. They are now rescheduled for late July or early August – while the Junior Cert is off altogether.

The deadline for submission of Leaving Certificate practical and other projects, in subjects such has History, Geography, Art, PE and Construction, has also been rescheduled to either late July or early August.

All the time, students have been taken out of the routine that they have been used to for the past five or six years just moths before the all important exams.

So, we decided to reach out to the schools in Laois and ask those getting ready to sit Leaving and Junior Cert exams how they are getting on.

What their routine now is, how their school are trying to help them and whether they believe the exams should be postponed or done online if they cannot proceed on the scheduled date.

So far we have heard from Portlaoise CBS’ Eamonn DelaneyScoil Chriost Ri’s Kate Corrigan, Mountrath CS’ Seth Burns Mooney, Colaiste Iosagain’s Emma Dunne, St Fergal’s Niall Coss, Portlaoise College’s Lauren Mills,Heywood’s Dervla McDonagh,Knockbeg’s Ross Bolger,Clonaslee College’s Eva Hyland,Portlaoise CBS’ Thómas Dunne,Scoil Chriost Ri’s Grace O’Brien and Mountrath CS’ Ellen Timmons.

Next up, it is Portlaoise native and Portlaoise College student Igor Stankiewicz.

1 – What is your daily routine at the moment?

Currently my daily routine is as follows. I wake up somewhere between 8am and 9am and have my breakfast shortly after. After that, I check my email and Google Classroom to see what my teachers have posted for the first class.

I do my school work for about two hours before I take a break for a snack. Then I go back into the work for another two hours to keep it similar to my normal school timetable, as teachers post at the same times we would normally have class.

From Monday to Thursday I stay working until 4pm and on Friday I finish at 1.15pm. Then I have the time to get food and go on about doing my hobbies. At around 6pm I sit down and study 2 subjects I haven’t already worked on that day, or subjects I encountered throughout the day that I realised might require some extra work.

2- What supports have your school provided for you and have they been useful?

I am very lucky to be receiving support from the school. Teachers correspond with us through Google Classroom and email, inside and outside of normal school hours. Teachers post notes and videos explaining the work they have assigned.

Teachers also notify us of extra learning resources that have become available to students during this time. Some of my teachers even started organizing online quizzes in which my classmates and I are able to compete in.

I find all of this extremely helpful. Teachers really go out of their way to help us study from home. I am very grateful for their support.

3 – Are you getting out for much exercise?

Currently I’m out injured with an ankle sprain so I don’t get any exercise in, but if that wasn’t the case I would definitely find time to exercise.

Igor Stankiewicz

4 – How do you feel about the decision to scrap the oral/practical elements of some subjects and give everyone 100% across the board?

I think the decision to scrap the oral/practical exams was fair to the students. I personally know I was in a disadvantaged position for these exams. There is obviously no way for me to have a mock oral exam with a teacher when I’m sitting at home, and there is only so much

I can learn myself without having a teacher that would correct me. It would be difficult for students who stayed at home for a two week break go back to school straight into an exam environment. I would have spent these last two weeks prioritising my Irish, German and Music exams while falling behind on all other subjects.

Now that the stress is gone and my timetable is back to normal, I can feel I am making more progress towards the Leaving Cert with my study. Knowing that I already have such a huge portion of the marks in those three subjects already also motivated me to try to achieve an even higher grade.

5 – Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to study for the exams as now the date has been pushed out to late July or early August?

The news of the postponement of the Leaving Cert was very disheartening. It is a very very long wait from now until then, and there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding if it’ll even take place by then.

It’s hard to find motivation to work and study but I know it has to be done, and I rather be prepared for when it actually happens. I don’t want to let the situation ruin my opportunity of getting into my number one option on my CAO.

I’m set on the course and career I want to pursue and I’ll work as much as I can in order to not let anything get in the way of that.

Igor Stankiewicz

6 – Are you able to interact with your friends? And if so, how are you doing this?

The only way I interact with friends now is online. Social media is helping me stay in touch with my classmates. We’re able to voice call and play video games together.

7 – How do feel young people are being portrayed in the media at the moment? They are being blamed a lot for ignoring social distancing guidelines. Do you believe this is a fair criticism?

The young people that don’t follow the relevant pandemic health and safety precautions are seriously selfish as they endanger not only themselves but literally everyone they come in contact with.

The criticism they receive is deserved in my opinion.

8 – If the Coronavirus crisis continues and you can’t sit your exams in late July or early August, do you think they should be postponed further or be cancelled altogether?

If we are unable to do our exams in July or August, I would prefer the Leaving Cert to be cancelled and a predicted grade system to be implemented.

I feel under a lot of stress right now as I am missing countless hours of class time and it is affecting my work rate, and I know many of my classmates are too. Further postponing the exams would undoubtedly cause even more stress and lower everyone’s result.

The truth is studying and learning only in your own house won’t have the same effectiveness as if we were able to do it in school.

Moving the exams until next year so we sit them along this years 5th years would require us to learn new poems, texts and oral test material in the space of a year, putting us at a disadvantage.

I don’t think cancelling the exams is an easy way out for students. I think students would benefit from it and wouldn’t have to spend the upcoming months anxious about the Leaving Cert.

Igor Stankiewicz

SEE ALSO – Big increase in number of cases of Coronavirus in Laois