This school year has been something different. Back in classrooms, but with masks? And the shock of returning as a junior at Peninsula High School after only one in-person semester freshman year. It’s been surreal, and frankly I don’t think this is what anybody expected.
To figure out what other people were feeling after our first semester back, I asked some classmates and one of my teachers how things were going.
My Advanced Placement literature teacher Lynda Richards has four classes of English 9, with the freshmen, and one class of AP lit full of mostly juniors and some seniors. When I asked her how students seem to be handling things this year, she said she has noticed that freshmen in particular seem to not be talking to each other or in class, as much as in previous years. She also said students are still acting as if they’re in front of a computer, avoiding questions and not participating in discussions.
From the teachers’ perspective, even teaching methods have changed. Schoology, an online platform where teachers create an almost Facebook-like page, is now a standard tool where updates, assignments, resources and grades can be posted. Schoology has been monumental when a student needs to do school from home in case of exposure or a positive Covid test, but it has also eliminated the need to interact in person.
Keep in mind that when Covid first hit, our current freshmen were just halfway through middle school.
The biggest question freshmen face is: “How is high school?” James McCourt, a freshman at PHS has been having a good year filled with both fun and hard work. It has provided an opportunity for growth and “time to really check on myself and what I need to improve on to succeed,” he said.
For James, “High school has been everything in one: emotional, fun, stressful, heart-racing. And I especially appreciate it because of being home for a year plus. And finally being able to socialize and make great memories with my friends in just my first semester alone.”
This new world doesn’t only affect freshmen.
Juniors like me were in our first semester of high school when Covid hit. We are now graduating in a year-and-a-half.
“This year has been a roller coaster,” my classmate Breanna Koch said. “It was tough going back into in-person school and having a routine again. Covid has made things very difficult, so I imagine I’m not the only one struggling.”
The very premise of routine is critical, for all ages. When that structure is instantly obliterated, a state of shock is induced.
“Hanging out with friends has made life easier though, being able to laugh with others through the hard times really helps,” she said.
But, unfortunately, with time comes age. As juniors the pressure for college and good grades is on. That brings more responsibility and a bigger workload.
“It’s stressful at times because people expect you to be a leader,” Breanna said. “It’s definitely strange having the majority of my high school experience online because there wasn’t a whole lot to experience. It all just felt like a blur; the days just mushed together.”
On top of routines being obliterated, like most teens, I developed a new routine while doing online school: stay in bed, and only get up when you need something.
Nothing about the present world that we’re living in feels normal to us teenagers. But perhaps it might become our new normal, and maybe at this point it should be. The events of the past couple years will forever be part of us one way or another. In terms of the complicated life of an American teenager, this hasn’t been the easiest situation to “thrive” in.
People always tell me that high school will be our prime years. But I don’t buy the hype. Honestly, high school is toxic and Covid has made it even worse. Instead of the normal pressure of popularity and grades, Covid has brought outsiders and their politics into our halls. Mask, no mask, vax or no, regardless of regulations, read this, don’t read that. The politics of adulthood is what thrives in high school now.
Grace Nesbit is in her junior year at Peninsula High School.
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