Wake up, go to school, come home, do homework, fall asleep, repeat. Ten weeks into the 2021-2022 school year, MCPS students have officially completed the first of four marking periods—half of the first semester.
For most students across the country, the past two months have been our first experience of in-person schooling in over a year and a half. Overall, the first quarter can be described as a period of readjustment: adjusting back to a five-day schedule, rigorous schoolwork policies, state-mandated testing, and even participation in extracurricular activities. On top of all that, students have had to abide by COVID-19 protocols and remain cautious about their well-being as the pandemic continues.
Here at PB, the measures for protecting all people in the building from exposure to COVID-19 have been no different from those of other schools. Students have become accustomed to wearing masks at all times (except when actively eating or drinking) and constantly washing and sanitizing their hands. Assigned seats are required in all classrooms, which allows students to be notified when they have come into contact with an infected individual and get tested or quarantined or both as necessary.
Despite the restrictions for COVID-19, PB students have been able to take advantage of the fun aspects of in-person schooling during the first quarter. Football games were once again scheduled every Friday night, which attracted students from all grades to gather and support their peers from the bleachers. The class of 2022 enjoyed their first of many senior activities by attending the traditional Senior Unity Day trip to Smokey Glen Farm. Spirit week also made a comeback, during which students dressed up in classic themes and took part in the entertaining Homecoming pep rally that led up to the highly anticipated Homecoming dance. To reduce overcrowding, Homecoming took place in the school courtyards and the main hallway on the first floor, which was beautifully decorated by the class Homecoming committees in the days prior. All in all, the first quarter was surprisingly “normal” for students, though it certainly came with ups-and-downs for some students.
Senior Emelia Quartey expressed mixed feelings about her first in-person quarter of school since sophomore year, noting that it was one with “both sweet and sour moments.” She has loved partaking in the various activities that characterize the high school experience, including going to football games, participating in spirit week, and savoring the time she has left with her friends. From an academic standpoint, however, Emelia was anything but ready “for the amount of work that was expected of us after a year of somewhat relaxing online school.” “It was like being thrown into a den of wolves without any insights or preparation,” she says.
Contradicting Emelia’s sentiments about the “rocky start to the school year,” senior Ann Marie Cole described the positive changes she has noticed regarding student-teacher relationships. “Many of my teachers are now making it a priority to check in on their students, whether it be daily or weekly,” she states. “They often ask us how we are feeling, how our days are going, or even how we feel about particular assignments. I really appreciate their small efforts, especially during these overwhelming times.”
Now in her third year of teaching, math teacher Ms. Murdock has experienced the first quarter under three different circumstances—in-person normally, virtually during a pandemic, and in-person during a pandemic. “Seeing everyone in masks every day is so different from the last time we were all together in the building, but it is a huge upgrade from last year when I didn’t even know what most of my students looked like!” she says. Similar to students, Ms. Murdock has struggled to re-adjust to a five-day schedule and misses certain advantages virtual learning provided such as “having more planning time on Wednesdays and getting to work in my comfy clothes.”
In spite of these challenges, Ms. Murdock had the opportunity to rekindle her school spirit during Homecoming week through her role as the sophomore class sponsor. Her committee “put a ton of work and time into the week,” which was an experience she considers being “the most fun I’ve had at PB so far!” Being able to “dress up every day, see my students’ outfits, and take pictures with everyone” is just the first few of many memories from this year she will “definitely cherish for years to come.” Along with the spirit week festivities, she has enjoyed getting to know her students more than ever before, both current ones and those she had virtually who have taken the time to visit. “I have to say this has been my most memorable year yet and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!”
While the first quarter has presented obstacles for everyone, there have been even more exciting moments to treasure after a year and a half of lacking those experiences. As we now progress through the second quarter, students and teachers have hopefully adjusted to our new normal and will continue to make the most of this extraordinary school year.