Back to school during a pandemic

I have experienced twelve years of going back to school, picking out my outfit for the first day, waiting as my mom takes pictures, and opening my locker for the first time. That all happened again this year, but when I stepped into the building, it was easy to see that something was different. 

There are arrows on the floor directing students down the hallways, hand sanitizer stations placed frequently around the school, and most jarring of all, everyone is wearing a mask. I wipe down my desk before every class, and students in seating charts are suddenly very quiet. My teacher can’t even come to my desk to help with a math problem.

Sometimes, I don’t know if it is worth it. School is as much a social setting as an academic one and even though I get to be around my friends more, I miss seeing their faces and making them laugh. I miss sharing glances across the room. Would it just be easier to go back to online school? Maybe it would be easier to just give up. 

School can’t be all that it was in the past. There are no dances or assemblies or football games, but maybe this stark contrast is what we needed. School is not a joke anymore and we all have to decide whether or not we want to take our learning seriously. Each and every one of us takes a risk each time we go somewhere, and the fact that we all choose to go back to school says something about what we value. 

There is value in structure and schedule, in having teachers and students meet face to face, to answer questions and have support, and in seeing my friends, and in not feeling alone. 

“I decided to come back to school because I wanted to have a normal senior year,” says senior Shae Callahan.

I want to say thank you to my teachers and to everyone who made it possible for all of us to go back to school. It means more to me than you could ever imagine. It might not be normal, but it’s normal enough.