I have always looked forward to my senior year of high school as a significant milestone in my life. Although the pandemic has drastically changed what this year looks like, I started Grade 12 with a mix of concern, excitement and an optimistic mindset.
Deciding to enter a hybrid learning model in September meant attending in-person classes two to three days a week with proper sanitizing, social distancing and a mask. The rest of the days were virtual learning from home. The most recent province-wide lockdown has changed this learning model to completely virtual, until Jan. 25.
As much as I have enjoyed the extra hours of sleep and freedom in my schedule, virtual learning is just not the same, and can feel endless. Missing are the structure and learning environment of a classroom, the presence of a teacher and peers, getting to see friends every day, and even the buzzing hallways and loud cafeteria at lunch.
We all understand that COVID-19 is a serious health concern. With the necessary restrictions, schools and teachers are trying their best to adapt. And I am hopeful that in this new year, we will eventually reach a new normal.
For high school seniors, this year also includes finalizing post-secondary plans, applying to schools and scholarships while maintaining good academic standing and making the most of the final year in high school. Navigating all of this is stressful in itself, not to mention the added stress of transitioning into a new learning model, isolation, dealing with day-to-day changes and the uncertainty associated with a pandemic. Amidst all of this, it is essential to prioritize mental health, realizing that this year many things are out of our control, and the best thing to do is make the most of the situation at hand.
I am thrilled to continue with my school’s Arts Council and NOTL’s Lord Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council through Zoom and Google Hangouts.
Transitioning to tutoring math online through Microsoft Teams has been a whole new experience, and joining new extracurriculars in virtual formats, such as the Junior Achievement Company Program, are a fun way to stay connected, and explore doing things while gaining valuable experiences.
Every high school student’s experience in learning during this pandemic has been different. Here are the thoughts and opinions of some friends in Grades 9 and 10, who graciously agreed to share their experience.
“I think that schools are doing their best to keep us safe and allow us to continue learning, but I will be glad when it is safe to have regular school again,” says Kaitlyn Lambert, a Grade 10 Student at Eden High School. “Students need to know how to follow safety protocols. For example, there have only been two cases (of COVID) in the entire school so far, and there has been no evidence indicating that there is a contraction of the virus from other people in the school.”
However, says Lambert, “with the amount of learning that is being done at home, it is harder to contact teachers for support, though they usually respond quickly.” Although there is online homework help, “we all miss that personal connection for better learning.”
Another challenge, says Lambert, “is that teachers are only getting a fraction of the time they usually have to teach us, so the courses and material are very sped up, meaning that certain things that would usually be taught are skipped to make time for other lessons.”
It’s hard to catch up on missed work, she says, because of this speed and large volume of homework and assignments. “Though things are not ideal, by adhering to safety guidelines and such we can keep safe, get schools and other places functioning normally again, and we’ll at least reach the ‘new normal.’”
Maisie Harrison, a Grade 9 Student at A.N. Myer Secondary School, says, “this school year isn’t just about adapting to mask-wearing and regularly washing my hands, but finding my way around a new school.”
The teachers at Myer have been accommodating to every student’s needs in class, and online as well, she says.
“Despite a global pandemic, I have also been able to make new friends, and have an altered version of a proper high school experience. I am still involved in clubs, like Myer’s Art Council. Even though we are not meeting in person, we all still have so much fun making plans for future events. I know that my Grade 10 year, no matter what restrictions Niagara is under, will be great. I have faith that my school will have the necessary support for me to succeed in my courses and enjoy my time at Myer.”