Home COVID-19 Pandemic Anniversary A look back on a year in the life of a pandemic:...

A look back on a year in the life of a pandemic: Students and Staff Edition

students are wearing masks in their classroom and are doing work on their computers
Image credit: 42Fifty staff writer Kevin Jurkovic

2020 has been an especially unique year— to say the least. There have been challenges and triumphs, and people learned how to adapt to big changes. When Oswego High School closed its doors on March 13, 2020, it was surreal to think school would continue without the tile hallways and brick walls that students and staff saw nearly every day. 

Since there was not much knowledge on COVID-19 at the time, teachers and students had no way of telling just how long school would be online. To most, it seemed like it would be an extended Spring Break and nothing more. 

“We all had to go collect our papers from our classrooms for the next week… and we were just excited,” says OHS Freshman, Natalie Braun. 

Similar reactions were seen across the school. 

“I was in the field house and they made the announcement that they were sending everybody home and there wouldn’t be school the next day, so I just heard cheering echoing throughout the main gym, the field house, [and] the PE locker rooms,” says OHS Kinetic Wellness teacher, Mrs. Rachel Zeifert.

School is still on its way to returning back to normal a year later. During this time there have been some positive changes, but new challenges still seep into student’s and teacher’s school experiences.

“I think a negative thing is definitely the fact of not getting to see students face-to-face. It’s very different in the interaction that you can have with your students… when you can see them and talk to them face-to-face versus an icon on a computer screen” says OHS Spanish teacher, Ms. Kimberly Stark.

Both teachers and students are affected by the new learning environment, whether it is positive or not for them, and it is something that everyone in the school is experiencing together. 

“It was a change for everyone,” Sophomore Maegan Parr says.

Changes during the Spring of 2020 led to struggles with finding ways for students and teachers to connect similarly to how they did in previous years, especially in classes like Physical Education. 

“Having to go to that format [where] it was just a posted assignment and not the live was really hard to make those connections, and it was really sad. I became a teacher to be around kids and get to know them and spread the love of PE and that was really hard to do by just posting little assignments” Mrs. Zeifert says.

For students, learning in a different environment is just as much of a struggle as it is for teachers teaching in a different environment. New challenges introduce themself when there is a new learning atmosphere.

“I wanted to go back to school. I don’t like e-learning just because it’s very difficult to learn with [distractions]”  Parr says.

Along with new obstacles, new memories continue to be made— memories that will be stories told for years to come.  

“There was a day earlier this year that I was able to drag [my friend] out of her house and [we] got Culver’s ice cream… and we were jamming out in the car, and that was super fun,” Senior Julian Fonseca says. 

Others have also made new memories in place of what they thought they would experience in 2020 that somewhat make up for what they missed. 

“It was right after the fourth phase started— so people could be in groups of 50, and me and my friends got together for the first time in the parking lot, and we had our trunks open… [we were] spread out, and we all got lunch… it was kinda like our eighth grade graduation,” Braun says. 

As a whole, 2020 is a story in itself and introduces a new perspective on school and people’s tendencies to persevere when a curveball is thrown into daily life. 

“The whole world just stopping and not being able to do things has been unbelievable to watch. Seeing the resiliency of kids and students trying their best under these circumstances has been pretty memorable” OHS AVID and Civics teacher and Varsity Boys Basketball and Varsity Boys Golf Coach Mr. Chad Pohlmann says.

New obstacles and new perspectives have accounted for a lot of the change that has happened in 2020 for the OHS community. Another contributor should not go without mentioning— new opportunities. Opportunities for personal and collective improvement have shined a light during the difficult times a pandemic has brought. 

“I feel like the pandemic has been a really nice time for me to do things for me… It’s been nice to have some me-time” Fonseca says. 

Along with more time for personal growth and appreciation, there has been more time for teachers and students to find new and creative ways to connect with each other.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of different departments because of some of the stuff they have the staff doing… they found unique ways for us all to reach out to our colleagues, and there’s been a lot of training on how to get to know [students]” Mrs. Zeifert says.

This chance to communicate more with colleagues has helped teachers find their ways through teaching without a classroom for part of the second semester of 2020, the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year, and part of the second semester of the 2020-2021 year. 

The staff has made a difference by “the supportive way teachers have stepped up and helped each other and continuing as a district to look for new and exciting things to use and trying them out in the classrooms” Ms. Stark says.

The list does not end there, though. By providing student support hours and different ways to communicate, teachers have aided students through learning in a new way. 

“A lot of teachers have really tried to find different ways to make things happen for their students,” Mr. Pohlmann says.

These attempts are recognized by students that utilize the communication opportunities that teachers provide.

“Whenever we need help [the teachers are] there to help you,” Parr says.

In return, teachers have felt appreciation from their students and have found the courage to keep pushing through difficulties. It has been said that small gestures go a long way, and caring gestures toward others made during a pandemic are no exception.

“When kids would check in on me, that was huge for me… My colleagues checking on me constantly, especially my department head [who]  has been great about that… Even our administration is finding little ways for us to feel appreciated” Mrs. Zeifert says.

Understanding that everyone is constantly adapting to new normals now has also provided for support and revealed just how much students and staff care for one another.

“I feel like the staff has been more understanding that we’re at home and some of us can’t focus as well,” Braun says.  

All we have left to do now is to continue to support one another and look forward to what is to come. Returning back to what life was like before the pandemic may take some more time and will continue to present challenges, but moving forward is a way back to what is considered ‘normal’. 

“I’m looking forward to… being able to see my students in person and have a better opportunity to get to know them and share experiences with each other in person, instead of through a computer,” Ms. Stark says.

Continuing some new trends will also provide additional opportunities to make memories. 

“Figuring out ways to see people safely has been really fun… Masks don’t really bother me, so having a mask and hanging out with somebody is weird, for sure, but it’s nice to see people” Fonseca says. 

It is time to turn obstacles into opportunities for growth and new knowledge gained. 

“Let’s hope… we learn from all these lessons that we’ve [had] and we make it a better year for ourselves,” Mr. Pohlmann says. 

As individuals, people can decide what they get from their experiences and how they will apply them to their future.

“When you go through bad stuff, that’s not always a bad thing… When you go through tough times, I think you toughen up. I think the old expression is ‘tough times don’t last, tough people do,’” Mr. Pohlmann says. 

Teachers and students have all learned together that school is not just a building— it’s the community built by relying on and being patient with each other. The OHS community has learned that tough times can be overcome if everyone works together and makes the most with what they are given. 

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