Confusion and anxiety: a high school coronavirus story

The pervasive theme of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be uncertainty. Uncertainty over when a vaccine will arrive, uncertainty over the economic and political turmoil that has accompanied the pandemic, uncertainty over what tomorrow holds. What will the world look like after the dust settles?

Confusion, confusion everywhere. As the trickle of coronavirus reports turned into a flood in late March, I thought to myself, “sweet, an extra week or two of spring break.” You can imagine my surprise when it was announced that school will be moving online. It was utter chaos. Useful information buried in verbose emails and gossip rife with misinformation left me dazed and confused as to what to do.

If there was one word to describe online school, it would be uncoordinated. My peers and I were left in the dark as to how grades would work and when we’d be returning to school as teachers claim to know nothing despite constant meetings with the administration. Each teacher resorted to different methods of teaching online. Some did their best to emulate regular classes while others veered off curriculum entirely. Regular schedules were a nebulous concept as each class seemed to be at a different time each week. Teachers and students alike faced constant technical issues with software like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. I know all too well the frustration of not being able to join the lecture or not being able to submit work. As a student in an accelerated program, it was concerning to see everything grind to a halt. Teachers often held only one lecture a week as the material required for the diploma piled up. Some aspects of school translated quite well to online, after all, listening to my teacher lecture was the same online as in-person. Other aspects suffered greatly. How were we to carry out experiments for chemistry and biology without proper supervision, materials, and equipment? Even as some teachers try to make the best of a bad situation, others obstinately refused to adapt. One of my teachers flat-out refused to hold any exams, instead opting to have three back-to-back tests when school opens. All this contributed to a hectic term with a lot of confusion and very little learning.

It’s pretty lonely out there. | Photo by Julia M. Cameron

And what of “social life”? Social life is a constant debate between the risks of going out to see friends and the boredom of online hangouts. There’s something about hearing friends laugh next to you and being able to give high-fives that can’t quite be replicated online. That isn’t to say that socializing online has been all bad. I have learned to be far more creative, finding online games to play with friends and taking advantage of virtual museum tours and the like. Sometimes the conversation drifts from the usual gossip and jokes to school and the future. When this happens, the atmosphere tangibly drops and an air of anxiety sets in. Anxiety is incredibly common, with each of my peers suffering various degrees of nervous breakdowns at one point or another. What is to be done when a parent loses their job? What will college admissions look like? What can you do if a loved one catches the virus? No one has answers to these questions and all we can do is promise each other that everything will be ok. Will everything be ok though?

Putting aside the anxiety, I mourn the lost memories and opportunities the pandemic has stolen. I have tried out for my school’s badminton team every single year starting in grade eight, and only succeeded this year. As I laced up my shoes and got pumped for the upcoming season, school, and badminton along with it, were cancelled. The jersey that hangs in my closet is a reminder of the lost wins and cancelled losses that could have been.