Saskatchewan·Point of View

Apathy, adaptation: Reflections on the first half of a pandemic high school year

Students have done what seems like our only option. We’ve adapted.

Over time the sheer monotony became the toughest thing

Classes went from in-person, to half-and-half, to fully online. (Submitted by Ben Alexander)

This is a Point of View piece written by Ben Alexander, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Campbell Collegiate in Regina. 

For more information about CBC's Opinion section, please see the FAQ.


Being in high school this year has been a journey. Some parts have sped by and others have gone at an agonizing crawl.

Since September we have gone through rising case numbers and escalating security levels. Over time the emails saying there was another case at our school faded into background noise.

Students have done what seems like our only option. 

We've adapted. 

Hard to stay motivated

In November they split us into two groups based on our last name. The groups alternated learning online one day and going to school the next.

Some welcomed this change. It assuaged their worries about still-packed classrooms. Others felt this further isolated them from friends based on the arbitrary coincidence of their last names. 

We've managed to maintain our relationship with our close friends, but all of the acquaintances we would have during a normal year have drifted away. 

My biggest personal concern is motivation. I find it hard to stay as engaged when learning online. 

Over time the sheer monotony became the toughest thing.- Ben Alexander

Teachers were mostly given free rein to handle online learning as they saw fit, provided it fulfilled the curriculum. I truly believe my teachers have done the best they could given the circumstances.

My morning was three hours of AP Calculus. My teacher used plenty of technology she paid for out of her own pocket, live-streaming the lesson while using a tablet to draw on top of a PDF version of her own notes.

My afternoon class, English, was left largely to the students. This teacher posted clear instructions, along with links to various resources. This looser format allowed for more flexibility while home, rather than being behind a desk.

Both of these were valid approaches, but the variety of the methods combined with the sudden switch to online school made the first few days a bit of a whirlwind.

Over time the sheer monotony became the toughest thing. It soon became hard to distinguish one day from the next. Apathy crept up on all of us.

Personal growth, or the quest for it, has become a focus for everyone. Usually it takes a personal crisis to make someone change this way. Now we're all going through one together.

Finals show how things have been complicated

Then, the week before finals, it was announced that we would be going fully online for the semester's final week.

The main concern for students was how exams would work. We soon learned it would be determined by teachers on a class to class basis, a nice way of saying that there was no concrete idea for what to do. 

Teachers were allowed to bring students into the building, but with strict limitations on how many could be in a class at a given time and on the length of the exam itself. Most chose to just go online rather than plan around all of that.

My English final was a 20-plus minute presentation on a global issue. I was fortunate enough to avoid technological mishaps. Not everyone was so lucky. Issues ranged from videos not playing to audio cutting out mid-sentence. 

The shift online was absolutely necessary, but it complicated things.

One day at a time

After winter holidays, we were fully online for one more week before heading back to in-person learning. 

It remains to be seen how the rest of the semester progresses. It feels like every week could bring a new announcement, a new plan, a new process. We're always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I'm not too sure how my cooking class will function if we have to go back to online learning, but I remain hopeful.

We've managed to maintain our relationship with our close friends, but all of the acquaintances we would have during a normal year have drifted away.- Ben Alexander

The vaccine is an injection of hope, even if it will be many months before the general population gets it. Restrictions may loosen due to the extra security it provides, or they may tighten so that the problem doesn't escalate beyond its control. We will have to wait and see.

At the start of the school year I wrote about frustration and resignation. The frustration has mostly been beaten, but the resignation still lingers. 

For now, I'm taking life one day at a time.


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

Interested in writing for us? We accept pitches for opinion and point-of-view pieces from Saskatchewan residents who want to share their thoughts on the news of the day, issues affecting their community or who have a compelling personal story to share. No need to be a professional writer!

Read more about what we're looking for here, then email sask-opinion-grp@cbc.ca with your idea.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben Alexander is a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Campbell Collegiate in Regina, Sask.

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