There is no denying that the current state of world affairs is one that is completely unprecedented. As we all do our best to solve problems creatively and practice social distancing, the American education system is no exception. In the face of a worldwide pandemic, schools everywhere have taken the necessary measures to keep students both safe and productive. For most NJ high schools, Cherokee included, this means online school for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. In the short span of around a few months, high school students have had to roll with the punches and transition from teachers to laptops, from papers to online documents, and from the comfort of everyday contact to learning with their peers through Google Classroom and video calls.
For most students, this change began as something exciting. Social media pages of high school students hashtagged “Corona-cation” and looked forward to the prospect of sleeping in, getting some much-needed alone time, and doing limited online work. This bubble of positivity quickly burst, however, as students started realizing the drawbacks of online school. There would be no laughter in the halls of school, no in-person club meetings. We would lose everyday contact with friends, peers, and beloved teachers and coaches. Not to mention the possible and occurring cancellation of events so many of us had looked forward to all our lives, especially high-school seniors. Suddenly the idea of online school wasn’t appealing anymore: it was restricting.
Now, almost two months into online schooling, most of us have gotten into something of a routine. What this routine is looks different for everyone, but the capability of students to adapt has been clear in this entire process. Many of us have slowly but surely begun to thrive in online school, getting assignments done on time and maintaining our grades. However, was it something to which any of us really wanted to adjust? While it certainly is no question that high-school students did not draw the worst hand in the scale of those suffering from the pandemic and its effects, the young people of America are struggling in a situation we never could have anticipated. As a society, we are living through history, and not the easy and clean-cut history the youth are so used to.
The struggle of these difficult times is varying in every student and every family, but there is no doubt that it is occurring. The pandemic has caused many to lose their jobs, to fall ill, to find themselves in unfathomable and inconvenient situations. Through all this, students are still expected to log on each day and complete their online work, to reconcile all the information the press and their teachers are throwing at them, and to do the best they can to find the inner strength and maturity needed to muscle through all this. Nonetheless, without the cushion and the escape of the familiar and comforting school environment, many students are lost and disillusioned.
The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly put many things into perspective, and it is no question that a lot of the everyday things we take for granted are not guaranteed to us. As all of us sit at home and stress about the postponing of tests, events, and this unfortunate turn of events, it is exceedingly difficult not to grow bitter. While we are allowed, even expected, to be upset about the potential or real cancellation of things we were looking forward to, such as trips, dances, or graduations, there is also the unexpected factor of missing those things we used to not pay much attention to. The absence of these things, which we never knew mattered so much, has proven to be one of the hardest aspects of online school.
These things include the early mornings spent meeting up with friends by the lockers with Cherokee coffee, laughing and discussing things with favorite teachers, clubs and meetings, long bus rides home, and even the predictable and familiar boredom of being stuck in school all day. There are a million things we all reminisce about now that they are gone. Most of us even miss complaining about being at school at seven in the morning: now that we are at home, there’s no tangible “school” to complain about.
While we do live in a time of utter darkness in terms of wondering what the future holds, we can all be grateful that this is also a time of technological advancement. While we are not able to jot down notes on paper and raise our hands in the classroom, we are able to type up our assignments, keep up with work, and smile at our teachers and friends over video calls. It isn’t enough, but it is something. Regarding the future of the pandemic and the reopening of New Jersey schools, these are answers that none of us have. However, at the very least, this pandemic might just cure us of our tendency to take things for granted, and that is something we all can grow to appreciate.