Whether it is meeting new teachers or learning how to navigate the hallways as a freshman, the first day of school can be a nerve-racking experience. Maintaining the right perspective can ease those nerves. When I think about my first-days from past years, I think of how fun it was to re-unite with the Schreiber community. Of course, the global pandemic makes this year’s return to school unlike any other. I am a senior at Schreiber, and this year’s return to school was my “last first.”
While I came to know and feel at home at Schreiber over the past three years, never had I felt more estranged to the school than on Sept. 9. As I donned my mask before first period, I was struck with the fearful realization that I was entering unchartered territory.
The first bell rang and off I went.
Schreiber is following a hybrid model. Some students were present for in-person classes, and others attended class remotely through a screen. While virtual classes have become “normal” during the pandemic, there was no way to prepare for how it felt to reunite with my peers over Zoom. I sat at my desk in class while many of my friends were mere faces on a screen. It was both unsettling and unforgettable. The whole experience felt like a science fiction movie (or perhaps an episode of “Black Mirror”).
I came to realize that the days of spending time with my friends in the cafeteria were over, at least for now. When in school, we have attempted to compensate with outdoor dining in various spots around Schreiber’s campus. It seems much of the student body has made similar adaptations, and friends are congregating, with masks and at a distance, outside for their one 30-minute break per day. We shall see how long that continues as the cold weather sets in.
As always, school ended at 3:05 p.m. I went home and reflected on what was the most bizarre first day of school I ever experienced. And then, out of nowhere, I started feeling optimistic about the path forward. As a typical as the day was, we found ways right through sixth period to laugh and feel like we were one again. We adapted to an outdoor lunch, where we shared our thoughts of this new, bizarre normal. We attended classes, took notes and asked questions. We wore masks. It really wasn’t that bad.
Our biggest test this school year will not be a midterm or a final. It will be our ability to collaborate with each other in a supportive way that results in a rewarding learning experience for all of us. After my “last first,” I am confident we will pass with flying colors.
Charlie Mark is a senior at Schreiber High School