I was really excited for 2020. It was the year I would finally turn 16, an age marked with many milestones of young adulthood. I was supposed to get my first job this summer, earn my first paycheck, attend my first driving lesson. However, what was supposed to be a year of new experiences became a year of postponement and isolation due to COVID-19.

The switch from in-person learning to E-learning was very abrupt, and left students and teachers alike completely unprepared. Teachers had approximately a week to figure out how they were supposed to teach their classes from home and communicate with their students, among other things. Likewise, students struggled to take E-learning seriously. For all intents and purposes, school was out of session and we didn’t need to do anymore work. Many students, including myself, would zone out during zoom sessions or skip them altogether. I was lucky enough to have considerate teachers. They took into account the circumstances and understood that with the fear of a global pandemic going around, it suddenly felt meaningless to memorize the Pythagorean theorem or the periodic table. 

In the midst of quarantine, the one thing I missed the most were my friends.  During school, lunch time was a special period in the day when we could just let loose and enjoy each other’s company. Most days our lunch table was loud, boisterous and filled with laughter. I especially treasured our lunch period because it was the one time I could see my friends during the school day. We had been looking forward to summer vacation with hopeful anticipation, but this summer has been more isolating than school ever was.

Now, as we grow accustomed to this global pandemic, many people have begun returning to their daily lives. The sound of passing cars can be heard from the once empty streets. Small businesses are reopening, beaches are filling with people again. It isn’t surprising that the question of reopening schools has been brought up. Many parents and students and school staff have waited in the dark all summer about the possibility of reopening schools in the fall. 

I have asked many of my peers, and very few are excited about the prospect of returning to in-person learning and it isn’t hard to understand why. A building packed with thousands of teenagers is not exactly the cleanest environment. Reopening schools would put millions of families across the country at risk. Thankfully, my high school has opted to continue with the E-learning curriculum for the upcoming fall semester. However, despite E-learning being the safest option, it does come with its own downfalls. 

I am worried that with online classes, it will be much harder for me to concentrate on my school work. My house is not the most ideal learning environment. There is always someone on the phone, talking, cooking, or attending their own zoom meetings. To sum it up, my house is full of distractions. Unfortunately, working in my bedroom is not an option, because my room lacks an appropriate studying area. If I want to get any work done, I have to go to the living room table, the most lively room in the house.

I have come to realize how valuable it is to have a separate home and school environment. When school was in session, I would usually finish all my work at school and then come home and relax. Therefore my brain associated home with rest. I am worried that when I begin working from home, it will be hard for me to distinguish when it is time to work or when it is time to relax because my environment will always stay the same.

Furthermore, I am concerned about how our teachers will handle this online situation. How will they teach through a screen? I feel as though the really dedicated teachers will find a way to make online learning personalized but it makes me uneasy to think that most of them will just overwhelm us with online worksheets and quizzes, and expect us to teach ourselves. I am a junior this year, which means I’ll be taking my first AP classes, and the thought of teaching myself the majority of the course is very frightening. 

That being said, the state of the world right now is also very frightening. People have lost their jobs, their homes, and their loved ones. Many have lost hope. In these troubling times, I find that it is important to take a step back and center yourself. During quarantine, I have learned to appreciate the things around me. I have noticed that I can get positivity from and feel blessed for the simple things, like movie night with my sister or family walks. It is important to live in the present and be grateful for all that I have. The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted our lives, but it has also given me more free time than I’ve ever had before. With all the spare time I have nowadays, I’ve decided to begin taking care of and braiding my own hair. The journey has been difficult but tremendously rewarding. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know that whatever happens, we should never give up hope.

An Invitation From the RoundTable

In the process of becoming a not-for-profit, online newspaper, the Evanston RoundTable NFP is also looking at new ways to engage with the Evanston community.

We are especially excited about the idea of soliciting and publishing student contributions –photographs and artwork as well as written work.

A rising junior at Evanston Township High School seems to have read our minds. Karel Pene submitted the following essay, expressing her feelings about school in the shadow of COVID-19 and anticipating the first topic we plan to submit to students of Districts 65 and 202.

We are delighted to publish this heartfelt essay, which touches on the confusing mixture of isolation, anxiety and hope that likely permeate everyone’s thoughts;and we encourage other students to contribute to this conversation that Karel has begun.

What has this lockdown felt like?

What have you learned?

What have you missed?

What are you anxious about?

What good things have you discovered?

Send your contributions to editor@evanstonroundtable.com