A Virtual Beginning
I remember when I first heard that school would be closed until April - I was so excited. I mean, that’s the best anyone can wish for, right?
But then it dragged on through May, then June, and I think that’s when we realized we weren’t going back to school. I figured I’d spend all of quarantine hanging out with friends, or at the beach, running, swimming, doing anything I wanted to (in a socially distanced way, of course). And that’s what I did, and that’s what most people I knew did. But we all missed school, whether we’d admit it or not.
What we missed wasn’t the homework or tests, but those little interactions with people that we took for granted. We missed always having the same partner for math class, or walking to class with the same people every day. We missed sitting with the same group at lunch or always stopping by our favorite teacher’s classroom.
After all, seeing friends was what most people considered the best part of school.
When school was closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, many of us put our hopes in the next school year. For me, and for many other students and faculty, that year would be at a new school.
It’s one thing to enter Upper School, a whole new chapter of your life. But it’s another to enter it virtually, knowing no one. Who ever heard of making friends over Zoom?
Making friends over Zoom
“At first, I was a little upset, because I really wanted high school to be memorable,” says Erin Nicolson, also a new freshman, and now one of my closest friends. “It’s still going to be memorable, just in a different way. I’m upset we won’t experience the same things that other freshmen do.”
At the end of eighth grade, we all complained that we never got a proper graduation. As Erin says, we still aren’t experiencing what freshmen would in a normal year. We’re missing sports championships, dances, that first day of high school feeling, and even just meeting our classmates not on a screen.
New science teacher David Brock taught at Roland Park Country School before coming to Friends this year. Mr. Brock did not teach the past year and describes virtual learning this year as radically new.
“Now that I have experienced it,” he says, “I’m amazed that all of you survived as well as you did this spring and summer.”
“I genuinely miss seeing my students in-person,” he says. “If you could see the look of sadness in your faces when I pull up the screen each morning. This isn’t what teaching should be about; this isn’t what learning should be about. It’s clearly having an impact on all of you, and as your teacher, I see that impact and I wish it wasn’t having to happen.”
As one of Mr. Brock’s students, I know what he means. It’s much more challenging to pay attention and stay undistracted throughout all of class. I’ve also found breakout rooms to be awkward and unproductive, especially as a new student.
Mr. Brock says it has been similarly difficult coming into a new school during distance learning as a teacher. He, too, arrived at Friends not knowing any students previously, and he struggled to form new relationships with them online.
“Transitioning into a virtual environment with people I had an existing relationship with, that would have been far easier,” he says.