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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators

What we gained from all we lost

A high school experience changed by COVID-19

By Isabella Oh, La Cañada High School | May | June 2021
The epitome of high school can be found in its hallways. The endless rows of lockers surround the awkward crowdedness caused by the mass of teenagers who are both all the same but also different in every way. On the sides you’ll find bundles of friends, huddled close, as if they were to spread too far apart, their conversations would leak out like water out of cupped hands. They try to discern a conversation over the chaos because in high school, the problems of you and your friends seem like the biggest ones. A few are in the corner, talking in hushed secrets of what’s on the next period’s test, others in their gigantic groups are slamming their lockers closed in booming laughter of memories of last weekend. Across the hallway, others exchange a congratulatory high five knowing that an A on a test like that only came from days of studying, while right next to their bubble is another group, consoling a friend who will have to face their parents later tonight after failing that same test.
High school hallways are where you wait for your friend to finish tying their shoelace before continuing the argument. High school hallways are where freshmen gaze at the seniors, because they seem to know all the answers. High school hallways are where you exchange notes with classmates because everyone knows that suffering together in an AP class is better than suffering alone. Everyone there is so eager to be somewhere else; whether that’s the next class period, to grab the best lunch table in the quad or even to graduate and go to college. We were so caught up in where we would be in the future, that we ignored the beauty of the disordered pandemonium in front of us.
High school hallways are what I miss most. Because now, our preconceived notion of normalcy seems like anything but normal.
Because now, the repetition of rows of lockers have been replaced with the repetition and the monotony of my bedroom now being a classroom. My friends staring at me with goofy expressions have been stolen and I am now staring at the harsh lighting of screens all day, and where there was once a sea of people in front of me, it’s been contorted into a sea of schoolwork.
The last time I walked through these locker-filled hallways, or raised a courageous hand in a classroom, or even laughed and joked around a lunch table with my friends, was the second semester of my sophomore year. The next time I will be able to do those things, I will (fingers crossed) be in my senior year. But I hope to believe that the naive underclassman who left campus and the assured upperclassman who will arrive on campus are different in ways other than just a grade level. I want to believe that months on end with nothing but my own thoughts and the confinement of my own space has washed away the old and arisen the new. That I have changed and grown under this lost time.
Even with the countless things lost, there must be something that was gained. Although I will never be able to dance under blinding lights in fancy dresses at my Junior Prom, I can now say that I reign champion of Just Dance competitions with my family. And that all the times I couldn’t hug my grandmother, I spent time learning and perfecting her Korean cuisine specialty, kimbap, to show her how much I’ve grown, but more importantly, how much I’ve been thinking of her. And even though my brother was supposed to leave for college last fall, I’m almost glad that the monotonous cycle of hours spent in front of a screen has taught me that drives during sunset are the perfect time to play each other songs we think the other will like. And this year, even though I was never able to meet my teachers, I have seen their children, and how they parent their children, and have learned that the same English teacher that gave me a C on my essay loves his three kids very much.
And with the monstrosity of the year that was 2020, I am aware of my luck when I consider the fact that my biggest problem is whether or not COVID-19 guidelines will allow me to take my driver’s test next month, and not that I will never see certain loved ones again or that unemployment will stop me from feeding my family.
So with everything I have learned, would it really be considered lost time?
Isabella Oh attends La Cañada High School in the La Cañada Unified School District.
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