Relearning School – What The Pandemic Has Taught

The conditions of Covid have affected how students and staff view and feel about school.

Relearning+School+-+What+The+Pandemic+Has+Taught

There are no more masks. There are no more virtual classes. There is no more social distancing.

So, school has finally returned to the way it was before Covid – or has it?

During the peak of the global pandemic that struck the world in 2020 and 2021, everything as we knew it changed. School, which you typically get a feel for after kindergarten, became unfamiliar to students and staff. We had to quickly adapt to an unexpectedly new style of education.

Now in 2022, school has definitely grown closer to normal. Sometimes, it feels like a million years ago we were all wearing masks and so isolated from one another. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine a time when we were not teaching and learning inside a physical room. 

However, there was a time when these circumstances were very real. We all experienced the weirdness and uncertainty of those years. So, although it may seem as though school has gone back to the way it was, the influence of the pandemic on students and staff is not one that can simply disappear.

It was hard to have gotten so used to being on a computer where you could cheat, to then go back to a classroom with a teacher in front of you.”

— Student

Honors English 2 teacher Mrs. Copestake explained how she has seen a fallback this year in terms of student performance. “The work ethic is low, and the work ethic in class is even lower,” she said. She has also observed a lot more wandering through the halls, talking back, and cell phone use. 

Why you may ask, are these issues occurring?

A huge thing to note about virtual and hybrid learning is the leeway it provided and the leisure it allowed. Recognizing that, it makes sense that returning to the constant, rigid routine of in-person school might not be the smoothest transition. Alina Patel, a sophomore student at Hunterdon Central, admitted she had a difficult time getting back into the rhythm of efficient work habits at the beginning of this year. “How do I study?” she remembered asking herself. 

While there still were tests during online times, there were definitely liberties that could be taken. As much as I’m sure it would be wished students had the integrity to not keep Google on standby, I think we all know that is unrealistic. Another student explained how much pressure being back in a physical classroom created, because of this previously laid-back attitude towards schoolwork. “It was hard to have gotten so used to being on a computer where you could cheat, to then go back to a classroom with a teacher in front of you,” he said.  

In response to the struggle with assignments, Hunterdon Central put a “grade floor” in place. This means that, in Aspen, students physically cannot receive a grade lower than an F on any heavily weighted tests/projects. As a whole, deadlines have also become much more lenient after the pandemic. Director of Curriculum Mrs. Cangelosi-Hade explained how teachers are actively trying to be more understanding this year. “The concern is most for the emotional well-being of students,” she said.  

On the bright side emotionally, students as a whole are now more grateful for the things the pandemic took away. Senior Hrithika Sanjeev commented on how we now know not to take for granted being able to actually go out and socialize. “I feel as if students are much more appreciative of learning in a physical establishment,” she said. 

Mrs. Cangelosi-Hade believes that, along with the inevitable setbacks, virtual learning has introduced some positive opportunities for teaching. She pointed out how teachers now use Google Classroom and Google Meet a lot more than they used to, and how the forced condensation of the curriculum for the half-day schedule highlighted the essential components of each class. “We didn’t want things to go back to total normal after the pandemic,” she said. 

The half-day schedule seemed to truly be a fan favorite – even with the teachers. AP and CP Biology teacher Mrs. Shawhan found the shorter school days to be beneficial. “It gave more time for things outside of class,” she said.

However, having this time to ourselves seems to have made everyone even more aware of the seven hours we spend in school. Sophomore Isabelle Pizzuto mentioned she particularly feels the pressure from a full-day schedule. “I literally have zero time to do anything,” she said. Suddenly, it seems getting everything done feels more impossible than it used to. 

If the conditions of Covid had never been brought upon schools, students and staff would never have thought to feel any differently about its qualities, because we only ever knew them one way. Yet from experiencing the necessary alternatives offered during the pandemic, we all gained a different perspective on the elements of school. On the outside, it may finally look more similar to how it was two years ago, but, for better or for worse, changes have definitely been made. Ultimately, virtual and hybrid learning caused us all to develop a new view, meaning we may never truly see school the same way again.