Manitoba·Point of View

Steinbach, Man., student survives crash course in pandemic education

Ayesha Badiola described the first day of COVID-19 school life as "officially the most peculiar way to start school."

High school student's back-to-school diary records first week of sophomore year, 'COVID-19 edition'

Sophomore Ayesha Badiola on lessons learned during pandemic: "Learning from home felt just like quarantine." (Submitted by Ayesha Badiola)

Here we are. I just finished my first week of sophomore year — COVID-19 edition. 

It was officially the most peculiar way to start school — especially since it was on a Friday. 

Nonetheless, I entered the building with excitement and curiosity.

I was greeted by squinted eyes, hidden smiles, hand sanitizer and striped arrows. The differences were drastic and noticeable. It's rare to be greeted at the door by a teacher, waiting to sanitize germ-filled hands. 

My first semester is undoubtedly a heavy one. Despite the busyness creeping up on me, I'm grateful to finally return. 

Caution during the new normal 

The halls were empty and at times, it felt like a ghost town. All I saw and heard were occasional footsteps and the teacher on duty.

The school is a shared space and is prone to bacteria. While we have to be sanitized, tables and chairs are required to be sprayed and wiped down after every class. 

The cafeteria, which is usually crowded with students, was transformed into a study hall. When students arrive early, they have the option to go to their morning class or their assigned study halls. 

WATCH | Ayesha Badiola documents the return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic

Steinbach, Man., student survives crash course in pandemic education

CBC News Manitoba

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Ayesha Badiola described the first day of COVID-19 school life as "officially the most peculiar way to start school." 2:14

The same options are offered to those who stay later. Similar to cohorts, where students go is decided by their last names. The library and learning commons are also being used.

Students are prohibited from going to the bathroom or filling up water bottles without a hall pass — yes, it's fourth grade all over again. This ensures that no gatherings happen and that the least amount of contact occurs.

Ayesha Badiola says she's happy to be back inside a classroom -- even with revised safety protocols. (Submitted by Ayesha Badiola)

Two-and-a-half hours of in-class instruction proved to be a stretch for me. I caught myself fidgeting, constantly checking the clock and tapping my foot. 

Connections with teachers and classmates will be difficult to create. Due to cohorts, students will only attend each class 14 times or less. This is a blessing for some and an unfortunate occurrence for others. 

Having personal space was one of the biggest differences. No longer can you go up to a friend's desk and borrow a pen. Yes, I understand that sharing is caring, but not this time around. 

Home learning pros and cons

Learning from home felt just like quarantine. Most classes went well, but math was a struggle as per usual — I'm no mathematician (if you couldn't already tell).

While I prefer being in a classroom setting, home learning comes with benefits. Without a teacher on-site, students will have to take initiative and be responsible. 

Time management and scheduling are two skills I'm learning during these times. Once high school days are over, we will all go our separate ways, relying more on ourselves. Sometimes, the days that we dread come with valuable lessons. 

Cliché, but team work is dream work!

All the staff and teachers' efforts shouldn't go unnoticed. Thank you for all your patience and hard work! Adjusting to online classes hasn't been easy, but the guidance and resources provided by teachers have made learning effective. 

Our mental health has also been a priority for the school. Teachers surveyed their classes on the amount of work assigned, making sure to not overwork or under work students. 

To students across Manitoba, thank you for cooperating and abiding by the rules. While these first weeks of school weren't the ones you envisioned, it's just one of many chapters of our lives. 

I hope everyone had an enjoyable and memorable first couple of weeks of school. 

Once again, I'll see you on the next one!

This column is part of  CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Ayesha Badiola is a high school student who grew up in the Philippines, before her family relocated to Steinbach, Man. She loves "hoops, writing and reporting," and hopes to one day cover the Toronto Raptors as a journalist or a sideline reporter.

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