Written by Janelle Garrett with contributions from the Samuel, Lucas, and Daniel Lewis and their mother, Kitty Potter
The Lewis family is a longtime YCIS family that joined our YCIS Pudong community four years ago after they moved from Beijing to Shanghai. During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lewis family traveled to be near family in Sydney, Australia and then returned to Shanghai to quarantine in their home in March. According to the Lewis brothers Samuel ’22, Lucas ’25 and Daniel ’30 (the number indicates their graduating year), e-Learning is necessarily a family affair. The three brothers all shared some of their experiences with e-Learning as they figured out new ways to share space and get along, become more independent and creative with their learning, get their work done, learn to do some household chores, engage in physical activity, and have fun as a family.
Here are a few of their take-aways:
“While some people miss the structure of school, I prefer some of the flexibility e-Learning. I find it easier to manage my time and get work done, and even go deeper with my learning, while feeling less pressure. I really miss socialization of school, my friends and my activities. But I’m really talkative and attention-seeking, and in a traditional classroom I often get distracted or am distracting. This has been a good lesson in time management practice for IB, for university and for life. Having more choice over when and how I do my work, and even some of the content, makes me more interested and willing to invest more time and more of myself into it, which makes it more meaningful.” Samuel, Year 11
“e-Learning is more convenient for me in some ways, I’m able to set my own time, I just got a big piece of work done instead of having to follow a really rigid schedule and stop doing something to go to the next thing when I just got going. This makes the workday a lot more efficient and liberating.” Lucas, Year 8
“I love the Zoom sessions because I get to see my teachers and it is easier to know what you need to do later, I also love to see my friends and at the end of the session we get to chat. But I still can’t wait to go back to school and play football with my friends.” Daniel, Year 3
“I miss people—my friends, even teachers. Zoom is better than nothing—it is really nice to get on a Homeroom call on Zoom and see everyone! But it’s nowhere near as engaging. It’s important to feel that connection. Being in person makes a huge difference”
“…I miss eating lunch with my friends. I’m a bit disappointed some people didn’t make it back before the borders in China closed, I hope things open up and they can come back soon. I’ve tried to stay connected with many of my friends calling them on Teams, and chatting on WeChat, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. Recently, I’ve also had friends coming over to my compound and hanging out, which is the best!” Lucas, Year 8
“I really miss my friends and can’t wait to get back to school. The last few weeks as things are opening up in Shanghai have been so good because I’ve gone over to people’s houses and been able to recharge socially… I also realized I know a lot of people beyond just my classmates, from participating in activities like Model United Nations, World Scholars Cup, and various camps—and one of the best parts of COVID-19 has been connecting online with all of these friends around the world.” Samuel, Year 11
Motivation is hard to master—and you can’t do it alone.
“Surprisingly I’ve been pretty motivated and disciplined, but motivation is dwindling. When the IGCSE Exams that we’d been preparing for over the past two years were cancelled, that was like a kick in the head, and it became a lot harder to stay motivated and not feel like we had wasted valuable time. I’ve appreciated Mr. Lee and my teachers reminding us about the important things we’ve learned along the way, that exceed what any exam can show. For example, I’m really enjoying the research I am currently doing in Science on the body’s immune system response to COVID-19. I learned a lot about myself during this time—I’m more capable of taking care of myself than I thought. But I’ve also discovered some things I can’t do on my own…and I’ve been very grateful for teachers, friends, and family that have helped me through it.” Samuel, Year 11
“I can do more on my own now than when e-Learning started. But doing work on my own can get very frustrating. Sometimes I’m trying to think hard and my brain just wanders and I have to think what subject is this? And I wish I had my teacher, and it is hard because my parents can’t always help if they are working.” Daniel, Year 3
You can have fun…even with your family.
“It hasn’t been easy, we’ve had a few fights since we are brothers, but actually we’ve had some really good family time. Being trapped with your family for several months has been a good bonding experience and we’ve had a lot of fun together and laughed a lot.” Samuel, Year 11
“Our family sometimes plays cards after dinner, like Go Fish. We like basketball, especially my brother Lucas. My brother Sam plays Risk with his friend a lot too. I like playing videogames. My brothers play a lot of Nintendo.” Daniel Year 3
“e-Learning in Australia was special and fun because I got to hang out with my family and play with other kids after classes were done and do things outdoors I can’t do in Shanghai.” Lucas, Year 8
Their mother Kitty, has been busy juggling parenting responsibilities and e-Learning for three kids with her job at Apple leading the Asia division for Human Rights and Stakeholder Engagement as part of the Supplier Responsibility Team. Her husband Mathew shares parenting and e-Learning supervision duties whilst he negotiates working from home and meetings for the Morgan Lewis law firm.
“When Sam started in the K3 Panda Class at YCIS in Beijing, I had no idea 13 years later we would find ourselves still here in China with three boys all at YCIS Pudong. YCIS has been very important to our family and one of the constants in our busy lives and the many changes we have seen moving to different places around Greater China. At the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, Mathew and I felt like it was back-to-the-future, having lived through SARS back in Beijing. But this has been a wholly different experience.
I am so grateful we were able to spend the first part of the transition to eLearning in Sydney with family, close to beaches and parks where the boys could get their energy out. I thought constantly (and guiltily) about friends and school families back in China stuck inside apartments. It has been both impressive and touching observing the commitment to learning by the boys’ teachers, knowing that they are experiencing many of the same challenges and stresses balancing their personal and professional lives under the most extreme circumstances.
We were so excited and relieved to get home to Shanghai. Even though China is “getting back to normal,” this journey is far from over and there will be plenty of opportunities to consider what we’ve all been through and how this will change our world. My hope is that the boys, years from now, will be able to reflect on what they learned: how we have always taken for granted our ability to travel the world and visit family in the US and Australia; how much other people usually do for them (Thank You Cao Ayi and all the women who have helped our family function over the years); how important friendships and community are, and that relationships need to be nurtured.
The boys can’t wait to get back to school. Mat and I can’t wait either.