2019 was, without a doubt, an interesting year. It was many people’s worst year in terms of personal growth and mental health so 2020 was idolized as a beacon of hope in the rough 365 days we were forced to endure. Students begrudgingly persevered through the endless piles of homework and tests. Parents went to work tirelessly, day in and day out, until our annual saving grace finally arrived: December! The month that, thankfully, includes the much-needed annual winter break. The break was a blur of cozy sweaters, powder snow, and festive celebrations. Christmas lights glistened in the foggy evenings; joy and laughter echoed down the hills; everything was perfect. But little did we know —it was just the calm before the storm.
It was the cold, crisp day of the 31st and the world sang and danced to celebrate the beginning of a fresh start, a year full of joy and prosperity for all! 2020 was going to be our best! But alas, 2019 had to have the last laugh. It introduced the discovery of a peculiar new virus in the city of Wuhan, Hubei, China. To think that what started as a strange, slightly worrying illness seemingly miles away is now a devastating global pandemic affecting 770 million people to date. COVID-19 has caused us to re-evaluate our personal hygiene and public health, shutting down crowded places which would only serve as infection breeding zones. Students have faced many challenges in their lives during this worldwide catastrophe and are doing their best to adjust, but, specifically for the grade 9s and 12s, major milestones are looking very different.
Grade nine students left their middle schools in high hopes that conditions would improve as they entered a new school and a new chapter of their lives. Due to online learning in the latter half of the year, many students did not complete the entire grade eight curriculum as teachers had to adjust and transition to a foreign, digital learning style. Despite the best efforts of educators, students were left with gaps in their knowledge and had to go from being a big fish in a small pond to becoming the tiniest fish in a massive pond. Now, with schools operating again in a socially distant way, it is incredibly difficult to make any connections with new people or find students with similar interests due to a lack of clubs, freedom during lunch, and fewer classes. Of course, these changes have been put in place for safety and are undoubtedly necessary, yet it cannot be denied that it is harder for grade nines to feel welcomed in a new school where opportunities to branch out are limited.
Grade 12 students are facing their own set of hardships. This year is definitely not what the grade 12s were picturing when imagining their final year. With graduation, university applications, scholarships, and more looming ahead, this year has been overwhelming and the senior students are ultimately just trying to get through the year with their sanity intact. Their gaps in knowledge due to the unforeseeable circumstances during their grade eleven year is only hindering their success, with some students struggling to keep up in academically rigorous courses where they lack a solid understanding of certain concepts.
There is nothing that can be said to make the world feel alright. All that we can do is simply be thankful for the fact that many students at Heritage Woods are corona-free and healthy, the rest is all about looking at the silver lining. Indeed, many events and large gatherings must be cancelled or changed, but that does not mean this year is a complete failure. With the future unknown, we must make the most of this seemingly disastrous year. Here are some tips from a fellow struggling grade twelve student for fellow seniors, grade nines, and everyone in between on how to get through this pandemic with a positive mindset:
1. Join virtual clubs.
Given, it is not the same as physically going to meetings and getting to know different, exciting people, but joining a virtual club, especially for grade 9s, can be a great way to be involved with a group of people who are interested in the same things. As a grade 12, it is also never too late to get started on extracurriculars for university.
2. Pick up a hobby.
School can be incredibly time consuming, but it is important to not allow it to consume your life. If there is extra time in your day, try picking up a new hobby to channel your energy into. It is a great way to take a step back from the constant stress of schoolwork and tests and instead, have an outlet to release pent up frustrations. Hobbies can include anything from reading, photography, knitting, drawing, sports, exercise, and more.
3. Talk to someone.
This pandemic can take its toll on your mental health, so it is crucial to talk to someone if you are feeling lonely, isolated, or just overwhelmed and burnt out. It can be good to release your feelings rather than bottle it up and let it fester inside.
4. Grade 11/12s:
Talk to Ms. Butler, the career counsellor, if you are having any concerns or questions about university programs or applications. There is no reason to fear the future and even if you do not know what you want to do, she is a great resource to guide you on your path. Her contact info can be found on the school’s staff directory.
5. Most importantly: wash your hands and wear a mask!
Ultimately, we have no choice but to wait this pandemic out; but we can help flatten the curve. It might seem annoying to constantly need to wear a mask but if it lowers the risk of spreading viruses; it’s worth it! If you have no access to a sink, at least use hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol to ensure you’re killing as many germs as possible. We want things back to normal as soon as possible so let’s do our best to reduce the spread!
No number of tips will make up for the things we’ve lost but it is important to remember we’re here, we’re healthy, and we’ll get through this. So, to you, Heritage Woods students, all I have to say is be safe and don’t let this discourage you from having a fantastic year!
Written by Nava Karimi