by Naidelyn Contreras
Monday, April 12th, 2021, was my first in-person day as a new student at East Side Community High School. Since the start of the school year, I’ve been living my high school experience completely online and most of us incoming freshmen did not expect it to start off this way.
For the past couple of months, I’ve debated whether or not I should switch to blended learning despite the health risks I would be taking. However, I considered how attending in-person would positively impact me by going to school and interacting with people like we used to.
One of the reasons why I wanted to go in person was because of the challenge of living the same cycle every day; at the kitchen table in the small apartment every morning as the sun was rising. Since the kitchen was the only space I had, there was constant noise from family members cooking and it distracted me. Another reason was the lack of exercise. I did not go out as much as I used to since indoor learning began in March 2020.
Leaving my apartment, I was extremely nervous because I hadn’t been to school for a year. I haven’t interacted with anyone face-to-face as often as before and being in a completely new setting with kids I’ve never met felt nerve-wracking. I came a few minutes early to school and was welcomed by Assistant Principal Joe Vincente, who walked me through the halls where my classes would be, and I met my math teacher and new advisor, Latisha.
From there, I walked over to my first block of the day, English, and it was so weird seeing all the students at their desks, socially distanced. I looked for a seat, following along with the lesson. Throughout the day, I saw familiar faces from Zoom, greeted them, and was guided to where my other classes were, along with my classmates.
Lunch was by far the newest experience I had, seeing so many students in the yard and barely seeing anyone through passing periods. It was also strange because as I was with some people that I knew, I didn’t really know what to do for that break time. As there are about 24 new students to the school, it has been strange and awkward, trying to navigate the school building and trying to meet new people. What was more difficult though was gaining back our social skills that have been neglected for a year.
March last year was difficult for a lot of us as we were receiving our high school acceptance letters, uncertain if we could go in person or stay online for a while.
A new 9th-grade student mentions, “I feel more alive now. Quarantine last year in March just made me feel absolutely dead. It was all a blur, now things feel more real again.”
Blended learning has helped many students feel present and have a part of their life back. Mika Roque, a new ninth-grader said, “Honestly, physical activity is back on for me. The train ride is a nice way to start the day even if it's only 7:20 in the morning. I also think that because we are in school and not looking at a screen all day I am able to feel more attentive and engaged in the lessons.”
“It [in-person learning] helped me a little bit with my social anxiety and feeling more comfortable with talking to people,” stated another 9th-grade student.
Although the way we attend school is not the same for everyone, being in-person has helped many overcome anxiety and try to get back in the loop of things. Even if it is the middle of the year, I’m glad I was able to have a somewhat first day of high school in person.