2020-21 School Year: The Good and The Bad

by Julia Hawkins ’22

The school year is nearly over! As this year draws to a close, it’s important to reflect and look back on this insane time. The past two semesters have been full of tribulations for everyone. Sports were pushed back, the majority of fine arts events were made virtual or abolished altogether, assemblies were missed, school functions were cancelled, and everything else that was supposed to make this year special was greatly altered. This year has been difficult, however, it’s important we look back on all of the good, and the bad of this school year.

The COVID pandemic altered everything about this past school year. It has no doubt been a challenge for everyone, and students agree, “the most challenging part of being hybrid this year was staying motivated. As the days sort of mesh together, and routines don’t change much, I have found it difficult to maintain the desire to do school work, or even things for myself. I tend to long for a break or a day off to relax and take my mind off of school and the pandemic” (Kira Schwetz ‘22). As this school year began with Zoom, so the challenge of “Zoom fatigue” was presented. “Zoom fatigue” is almost exactly what it sounds like, but as Dr. Jena Lee who wrote about Zoom Fatigue in, A Neuropsychological Exploration of Zoom Fatigue “‘Zoom fatigue’” describes the tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication. Like other experiences associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ‘Zoom fatigue’” is widely prevalent, intense, and completely new.” Zoom became the new norm at the beginning of the school year. Many perceived this change as awful because it forced students and teachers to adapt without any clear idea of when school would return to a semi-normal schedule. From a student standpoint, “Zoom fatigue” isn’t fun; many students felt the effects of it through physical and mental strains. 

Academically, Zoom classes were difficult for a multitude of reasons. “The hardest aspect overall would probably be communicating with teachers outside of class because working fully online was a new experience for everyone and it was hard for some classes to be clear in instruction or there would be a lot of connectivity issues/digital issues. Furthermore, it became more complicated when hybrid was introduced, because people were balancing in-person and virtual aspects of classes,” said Megan William (‘22). “I think staying motivated and focused was definitely the most difficult aspect of online and hybrid learning,” added Makena Schick (‘23).

Students found that the social aspect of the school year was damaged as well. “The most challenging part of this year’s situation has been trying to connect with and get to know new people and groups. Especially at the beginning of the year, there weren’t any sports or activities where different groups could form or mix,” said Elliott Montoya (‘23). While most major social interactions would regularly happen on campus, such socializing was put on hold for a time at the beginning of the year.

Fortunately, there was a light at the end of the tunnel as AMHS moved into a hybrid schedule, which then turned into 50% capacity on campus at the beginning of the second semester. Students found, going from full zoom class to in-person class was considerably more difficult than anticipated, “Readjusting to a new schedule when coming to school was really hard. I had just gotten used to my zoom class schedule, then I had to make a whole new schedule for in-person learning,” said Jenna Denny (‘22). “You had to navigate the school and interact with other people and teachers. I feel like there was a lot of uncertainty and some uncomfortableness because the pandemic was still in full swing so just figuring out what was ‘acceptable’ was a challenge,” added Holly Kluck (‘22). The transition into hybrid meant student life was able to return to a semi-normal basis, which benefited student learning and the value of the social aspect of school. “Something good about the school year was returning on campus to see all of my classmates and teachers. Through the pandemic, I realized the importance of social interaction and socialization, and how it is such an essential part of being human. The social isolation that came with quarantine was extremely lonesome, so returning back to campus completely uplifted my mood and I am now able to fully cherish the time I spend with people, said Schewtez. Montoya also said, “As things began to go back, social groups were unsteady and dynamics had been disrupted. This meant that there was a much more emphasized culture of meeting people and intermingling within groups. Normally this only happens in freshman year, but it pushed a lot of people out of their comfort zones meaning that sophomores, juniors, and seniors changed their friend groups and met new people. This has been amazing as it has widened my social scope.”  

In the peculiar nature of the year, we also must take a valuable lesson from this – never take what you have for granted. It’s safe to say that we all have very high expectations for the beginning of high school and this year has proven that you can plan for everything and those plans can still go amiss, so it’s important to be grateful for what you have. Although they were pushed back, athletes were able to participate in their respective sports, the fine arts were able to produce and premiere a feature-length film, and students were able to have as close of a normal year as possible. It’s been such a difficult year, but we are strong, resilient, and we all got through it –  and that’s truly an incredible achievement. Here’s to hoping for a brighter and more traditional upcoming school year!