🏠😷🦠 Life As A QuaranTEEN 🦠😷🏠 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team Blog Surrounding COVID-19
Sophie: With the school year winding down, I was looking forward to senior events such as prom and graduation to solidify my high school experience and end my crazy school year on a positive note...
Unfortunately, one of those rights of passage was withdrawn from the students at my school. In April, Red Bank notified the students that we would not be having a prom because very few seniors filled out the google form that inquired about the student participation in the event. Because the pandemic started my junior year, I was unable to have a junior or senior prom. Now, although buying overpriced dresses and listening to bad music with my peers doesn’t seem appealing to a lot of students, the collective experience that most high schoolers get to share is something I’m still missing out on. It’s disappointing to not participate in prom this year because I’ve missed a lot of social interaction due to the CDC guidelines set in place to protect students from COVID-19.
Graduation was an exhilarating event. I was speaking as a Salutatorian for my class, and I was terrified yet excited to talk before such a big audience. It was nerve-racking, but I looked forward to it because I knew I was making my family proud. We had to wear masks as we walked to the field, but when we sat down, we were socially distanced, so we were not required to keep our masks on. When I walked the field, sat down, and even spoke in front of everyone, it didn’t feel like I was graduating. It just felt like one big school event or celebration, but it didn’t hit me that I was graduating and finalizing my high school career. I am so grateful that we could have it at Finley Stadium, where 10 of my closest family and friends could join. It was a fun experience, and I am so grateful that I got to end my school year with a positive memory.
Carson: Unlike Red Bank, my school did choose to have a prom. In years past, Signal has held our dance somewhere downtown. This year, however, our prom was held at Walden’s Ridge Firehall. While all of the Seniors, the only ones directly allowed to attend, were grateful even to have a prom, the dance had some weird vibes. There was no dance floor or tables within the venue, so when everyone gathered together at the front, the hall felt far too big for the event. We understood the need for extra space for social distancing, but social distancing just wasn’t happening, and everyone understood that there was no hope for it to happen. Thankfully, at the time of prom, I had already hit my two weeks after receiving my second vaccine dose. Although, I’m sure there were not too many other students in the same situation. Mask compliance was good, not great. Most people wore them, but very few wore them correctly. Only one admin was brave enough or maybe just hopeful enough to come through the crowd to look, and everyone who would have been an offender pulled their masks up as he walked by, just to let them fall back down immediately. Other than frustrating masks and a lot of red light (we were in a Firehall, so they leaned in and made the lighting red all night), prom was really great, and I’m happy to have gotten to have one, especially since I already had a dress from last year. Before graduation, I - like many students - had to take the end-of-course standardized testing. I was fortunate not to have to take any State Tests or AP tests this year; however, I was an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme student. So, I had to take tests for five of my classes and submit coursework for my two other classes to be graded and evaluated by IB. These tests work similarly to the AP exams and serve as a way for colleges to see mastery in classes and subjects for students to test and place out of courses. Much like the SAT, ACT, and AP exams, the IB exams continue to perpetuate issues with teaching for tests and with equity in education. Most standardized exams within education often have many similar problems with the stress they put on students and the mental health issues they can create for students with testing anxiety and many more conditions. For many students, end-of-year testing and standardized testing create additional stress related to the financial strain these tests can place on families and students. I’ve never been a huge fan of standardized testing, and I’ve had to take standardized tests since the second grade when we took our first TCAP test. At this point, I’m tired of learning for a test, and I’m ready to focus on more specific topics in college that I enjoy learning about. As a senior, I also graduated this May. Our ceremony was outdoors at Finley Stadium, which was great for COVID safety. However, we were also battling with the wind during the ceremony. I was so excited to graduate and finish high school. While I’m sad to be on my way out, I can’t wait to try new things in college and learn about new subjects. Our graduation was really lovely, and the only annoying parts of the graduation process were definitely more of the prep work stuff. Our school was very particular about the way things are done with seniors. You get all your email alerts about all of the things you should buy to commemorate it. Things that add up fast for anyone, let alone someone who may be struggling financially. Even if a student chooses not to purchase senior pictures or a class ring, there are still so many obligatory costs like the Senior Fee, buying the Cap and Gown, and so many things that I’ve probably already forgotten about. There is likely financial support available for these things, but in a school like mine, where it is assumed that students have the money for them, no one talks about these opportunities. Now, I’m looking back on all of senior year, wishing for more of it, but while I was going through it, I just wanted to be done with it all.
Jerald: As echoed countless times this year, the school year of 2020-21 was an unorthodox period of learning for students and teachers and the majority of everyone due to the ongoing pandemic. In addition to all of the confusion already created, schooling this past year was carried out differently due to the newly enforced Covid-19 procedures in schools, communities, and practically everywhere. With the division of both online and in-person students, learning was split vastly differently between the two groups, which led families to question if their students were learning much of anything during the year. According to Jessica Dickler from the CNBC web magazine, “After a year of school closings and distance learning amid the coronavirus crisis, more than half of public school K-12 teachers said the pandemic resulted in a “significant” learning loss for students, both academically and from a social-emotional standpoint.” I believe students suffered from “learning loss” due to the sudden changes happening worldwide during the already bizarre year in procession. Whether it be the fear of the Covid-19 pandemic, racial hate crimes, or political changes, the main point is that many dismal events occurring in our world today have not only affected the entirety of learning in schools but the well-being of families.
How was this year’s testing affected by this? From my experience, I find that testing was an exceptionally beneficial way to accurately prove how much students had learned this year despite the negative occurring factors; however, I find it counterproductive that students nor teachers were even provided these scores at the end of the day. In a year where lots of evident “learning loss” was seen throughout schools in our nation, it’s disappointing that of all years of testing, this school year should have been taken with more seriousness and structured a bit better. Despite the recurring debate of if students have learned enough in schools during this school year, I am overly proud of all students for making it through this disaster of a year. I look forward to what the next school year has to offer and remain faithful that the upcoming year will be tremendously better.
Kaitlyn: Although I’m only a sophomore, I can definitely say the end of my school year was jam-packed and stress-inducing, which pretty much sums up my 10th-grade experience. I believe that my class, the year of 2023, was probably least affected by the pandemic in the grand scheme of things. Sure our freshmen year was cut short, and our sophomore year wasn’t fantastic, but we have a chance at a typical junior and senior year. All the cancellations didn’t mean nearly as much to us because we wouldn’t usually be included in said events, or we could just try again for the last bit of our high school career. For example, my school decided to have a prom, but it was incredibly downsized, and juniors weren’t allowed to join. I know that many scoff at the notion of a school dance and all of the accompanying cringe and discomfort, but it’s still a common high school experience many want the choice to indulge in. Although I am not the biggest fan of school-sanctioned dances, they’re still fun to prep and go to with your friends, and I feel bad for all the juniors who missed out on that opportunity, as well as other students whose school didn’t even have a prom.
Even though I didn’t graduate this year or have a sibling in the class of 2021, I still had a hand in graduation and was able to attend. Three of my peers and I were designated as ushers based on our academic achievements. In a regular year, we would typically hand out programs to families and friends entering the event; however, our duties differed due to social distancing guidelines. Physical programs were distributed before graduation, meaning our job was solely to direct and help guests with the QR code for digital access. However, almost everyone knew how to use a QR code, and those that didn’t have a family member to aid them, leaving us obsolete. Although we didn’t actually do much, I was glad to have been recognized and helped at least one or two people. My duties did not stop there; as a band member, I also had to play graduation songs. Because typical graduation songs are not heavy on percussive elements, I played on a piece for a few measures. Although it was nice to play for the seniors, it was a pretty hot day, and I received mild sunburn because I did not put on sunscreen. Even though I was only wearing a dress, I was sweating profusely, and I felt worse for the seniors decked out in their robes and heavier outfits. The valedictorians and salutatorian gave excellent speeches, and I looked forward to my friends’ deliverance at our graduation. Although it was a little uncomfortable at times, I’m glad to have been present at the seniors’ big day.
Due to the structure of our school’s classes, this was the first and final year of me taking AP classes (thankfully). As such, final exams weren’t super great and were incredibly stressful. Our teachers decided to opt for the digital version, giving us more time to prep but more limitations during the actual test day. For one, we couldn’t flip in between multiple-choice questions, making the elimination process much harder. I know that I’m someone who likes to read all the other questions and answers to help me with the one I’m confused about: a technique I wasn’t allowed to use. However, I am happy we could type our papers instead of being forced to handwrite three consecutive essays, aka AP Literature and Composition. Although outside resources were strictly forbidden, I wonder how many students negated that fact and cheated anyway. It makes me angry to think that some students were essentially scoffing at the faces of those who put in the work when they cheated. My other classes’ exams were relatively straightforward, consisting of either a final paper or a multiple-choice test with corrections. This year wasn’t perfect (not that I would expect it to be); it was stressful and entailed many sleepless nights. However, I’m happy with the way it played out, especially with restrictions and cancellations. I hope that the following years to come will be even better and that the graduated seniors thrive in the next chapter of their lives.