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On August 18th, the gates of Washington High School reopened to hundreds of students and teachers marching back into campus, excited about school being back in-person. We interviewed multiple teachers and students from all over the campus and captured how their high school experience has evolved over the pandemic.
Schools being able to reopen safely, in itself, is a very drastic change. Dr. Lisa-Marie Burns, an accomplished teacher at Washington High School, says, “I honestly feel like the past 17 months were just a pause button and we ‘started playing’ from where we stopped. But we paused a worn out song and started playing a new invigorating song.” This statement effectively sums up the general consensus of Washington High School. In March 2020, our community was brought to a standstill, with businesses being shut down, social distancing guidelines being enforced, and our school having to move online. As lockdown ends, we share a feeling of ‘resuming’ life refreshed. This rejuvenated energy reflects the emotions that have driven Washington High students and staff to regard school as more than a mere setting to foster education, but rather as a social hub that they lacked throughout their quarantine.
Social awkwardness might be apparent among the younger classes as they have to dive headfirst from their last junior high school experience into a newer and more intimidating high school environment. Sarah Hamilton, a freshman at Washington High School, states “It feels a lot harder to ask teachers for help since it requires actually going out of my way and reaching out to them, something I’ve forgotten how to do because of online school.” From interacting amidst the comfort of our own houses to meeting people upfront and in-person, many students are used to the convenience of distance learning. As a result, it has become difficult to get back in touch with this substantially different setting. However, things have been looking up ever since.
Vincent Wu, a teacher, passionately emphasizes this. “We are social creatures,” he says. “We are created to be social.” The overwhelming urge to finally see “real” faces again definitely plays a role in neutralizing the awkwardness in such daily interactions. While the addition of masks has impeded our ability to communicate fully, this exhaustion is being overcome by the excitement of physically sharing a space with people, in stark contrast to “talking to a wall” for hours a day, as Mr. Wu puts it.
Avik Ghosh, a Washington High senior, further elaborates from a student’s perspective, “I missed distance learning because it felt much more convenient, but after a month of school, I never knew how much I was missing. I am actually looking forward to school now.” Thus, students and teachers, alike, are becoming increasingly accustomed to this new life, raising our hopes of reliving most of the normalcy from before the pandemic; Washington High School is on track to being back and better than ever!