OPINION: JCPS is breaking us with NTI


EP Presnell

JCPS’s approach to NTI is causing an overload of work that is burning out students. NTI is breaking us and it’s time for a break and change. Graphic by EP Presnell.

EP Presnell

Wake up at 8, log on to classes, break for lunch, resume classes, start on homework, go to work, come back home for dinner and work, stay up until midnight, allow myself 30 minutes to read a book of my own choice, go to bed around 2 in the morning and repeat. 

Repeat it with minor changes; instead of going to work, I do a test in the afternoon, meet with a club or work on more homework because the workload never ends. Or, I Facetime with this group of people, attend this study session. No matter what I do, I’m trapped in my house to work, and if I’m not working, I’m feeling guilty about the 20 Google Classroom notifications on my phone telling me something is due tonight or tomorrow. 

I’ve reached a breaking point and I know I’m not alone. Across the district, kids, parents and teachers of all ages are reaching a breaking point with NTI and the relentless workload that comes with it. We can’t maintain this anymore and it’s time for a break for everyone. 

NTI seems like a wonderful solution to the worldwide pandemic. They market it as a way for students to spend more time sleeping, to spend at home and give them more time to care for their mental and physical health, but the reality is starkly different. 

NTI strips away the social aspects of school and breaks it down to simply learning and working, which leaves students feeling more overwhelmed. It feels as though teachers are taking this opportunity to pile more work with less clear instruction which causes confusion and a sense of feeling burnt out on everything, from classes students usually enjoy to the dreaded required courses. This creates a neverending workload which is unhealthy for students to constantly feel. This not only creates physical problems but also severe mental health problems. 

Students may have less time to contribute to physical health if they don’t have a designated time, such as a sport or class that requires it of them, and with NTI’s structure, it feels especially easy to shove it down to the bottom of a priority list. NTI also requires students to stare at a screen for longer times throughout the day which is proven to lead to more headaches and potential eye damage, especially if students are staying up longer to finish assignments at night, which then leads to sleep deprivation and an overall groggy feeling. This then creates a cycle of unproductive tendencies and behaviors. 

But what is perhaps more damaging is how students’ mental health is being ignored as events happening in the world. 

On top of the worldwide pandemic, Louisville has dealt with a city-wide call for justice with the Breonna Taylor protests that many teachers chose to ignore or mention, a five day, painstakingly close election where our futures hung in the balance and other events that impact households mentally. Both of these events, by multiple teachers, were ignored or mentioned once. Never was there a chance to discuss these issues with classmates, teachers or any redirect to where we could discuss our frustrations or thoughts. 

This mentality of “keeping things as close to normal” is painful and ridiculous because it’s simply not the case. 2020 has been an exhausting year, to say the least, and we can’t continue going on like it is normal. 

We have to wear masks anytime we leave the house and we aren’t allowed to hug our friends or family if they don’t live within our household because a pandemic won’t allow us to be close. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, parties and much more have been taken from us. Seniors are going through one of the most anticipated years of their school careers with nothing but work and assignments on top of college applications, with no break. 

Teachers and principals need to stop ignoring what is going on in our world and allow us a moment to breathe because we haven’t had one since September. The general anxiety of the world has already been recognized by Central High School who gave their students last week a “wellness week” to catch up on assignments and take time to reflect on their mental health. 

And to those of you reading this saying these are just my personal feelings and that I need therapy, it absolutely is not. Go to the PTSA Facebook page and read the countless other messages from parents about their kids who are crying every night because they can’t handle this. When I talk to my friends, we all say the same thing, and it’s that we can’t keep this up anymore. 

Take it from me, a student who loves school and learning. As I’ve been taught, education is a privilege, and I’m lucky to attend duPont Manual High School, the best school in the state. I’m lucky to have my position in the J&C magnet, but I can’t continue living like this. I can’t continue to work and have panic attacks or cry myself to sleep at night because I’m receiving notifications at all times during the day about assignments I have to complete. I can’t continue to run on caffeine because it’s the only thing keeping me awake for classes. I can’t maintain this lifestyle, and I know that there are students who have it way harder than I do. 

I firmly believe that the district should take a week off school and learn how to reapproach students with work and classes. Weekends should be dedicated to decompressing, not working on assignments teachers give at the end of the week and expect us to have done by Monday morning. For the sake of our mental healths and grades, a week off is essential for moving forward during NTI. 

The world has become a mess this past year; our lives were uprooted in March and hardly any normalcy has returned. It’s time that teachers and principals understand this and approach school understanding the world we live in. 

To those of you struggling, you aren’t alone, and I hope that change can be made for us moving forward. This pandemic isn’t going anywhere from the looks of it, and we just need a moment to breathe.