I’m sitting in my car and the mask I’m wearing is heating up my face. The bag on my shoulders feels heavy and strange. As I approach the streetlight I wonder if the teachers will even recognize me in person, after almost two full years, with half my face hidden in the mask.
I’m hit with that familiar jolt, when I see the building again.
I haven’t done this in two years. Do I even remember what school feels like?
My stomach is twisting with butterflies but I’m surprised at the smile that is slowly starting to form. I’m excited. Because for the first time, it feels normal, although so much has changed, everything is still the same.
Returning to schools in October 2021 marked a big change for all students.
I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that being back has had it’s pros and cons. I’d describe the transition as returning home from a foreign place, after a long time, where you’re trying to adjust and make your way around a place and get used to an atmosphere that you’ve almost forgotten.
After nearly 18 months of online schooling, we’d gotten accustomed to waking up late, attending classes with just a click of a button, in PJs within the comfort of our homes. So it’s no surprise that being thrust back into this rigorous environment was challenging at first.
Travel times meant longer days, where we’d come home later each day and leave early the next, which proved to be quite exhausting for the first couple of weeks. More than that, just being back in a classroom with eye contact with real people, with pens and papers instead of laptops and computers was a bit of a strange adjustment to get used to again.
But, after two years of staring passively at screens and, there was something about feeling that rush of racing down the stairs in a frenzy to your next class, sitting on a desk in a real classroom and hearing that familiar chatter in the hallways made us realize how much we had taken for granted in physical school.
All these little things brought back that part of school that had been missing for so long, something online classes had never given us.
Instead of seeing icons, I was seeing people.
We got to meet with so many new students and teachers, whom we’d never met in person before and I felt like I had bonded with so many new people in those few weeks more than I ever had online.
But aside from that, there was something about getting up that one hour early, getting ready and packing my bag and leaving home that made me feel all the more accomplished, like I was settling back into some form of routine again, that life was almost normal again. I was awake and I was present and I was focused and I felt this energy was present in all of us as well, fueled with an eagerness to learn and be present and strive to do the best that we could.
Being back at school has reminded all of us how much the pandemic has robbed us of a high-school and college experience. After nearly two crazy years, it’s a relief and a joy to have some sense of normalcy return in our lives, even if it’s through wearing masks and sitting six feet apart.