Moving Schools During a Pandemic
Being a new student is always difficult whether you’re only moving over a district, or to a whole new state or country. Showing up that first day somewhere you’ve never been, seeing people you’ve never seen. Feeling lost in a crowd without a single familiar face or landmark to guide you. It’s something that society openly recognizes as difficult. But what do you do when you can’t even see your classmates’ faces?
Picture this: it’s the first day of school. You are a new student at TC Williams; you click on the ZOOM link for your first class and you are met with nothing but black squares with names over them. You wouldn’t even know if the Kate in your Chemistry class is the same as the Kate in your English Class. This is the reality for new students at TC.
Making friends is difficult in any situation. Plucking up the courage to say hi, figuring out how to keep the conversation going without seeming needy, or picking up on social cues and seeing if you are compatible. When you only see black squares or tiny blank faces, there is no way to connect on a normal human level.. You might exchange a word or two, a couple opinions in breakout rooms, but that’s it. No “hey do you want to pair up for this project?’ or ‘what color football field did you vote for?’ All of the natural parts of teenage socialization have been taken away.
By not being in the building new students are also missing out on all the time between classes where they can interact with their peers. There’s no more walking to class together or sitting together at lunch. New students have lost all the small bits of social interaction everyone takes for granted.
Yet, despite all these challenges, there is an expectation that you are making friends. There is a belief that ‘oh it’s not too hard, just smile and say hello’. But even that simple greeting is nearly impossible in a virtual environment. No one wants to be that person who shows up to the zoom meeting and says a loud “Hello!” completely unprompted, although in the real world, greeting your teacher and classmates is expected. But on zoom that’s seen as obnoxious, but at least it’s some small bit of social interaction.
Now it’s only the beginning of the year, and I’m sure it’ll get easier for new students as time goes on. But it’s hard now, and that’s what’s on our minds.
This isn’t a plea for you to greet everyone, or even try to interact with new students unless you want to. It’s simply a truth and something that every TC student should consider. Don’t forget about us. Don’t brush us off, or get annoyed when we are confused. We have lost all the natural things that are supposed to happen to new students.
Without properly seeing our classmates and teachers it often feels like we aren’t even true TC students. We can’t picture anything when we think about TC, we don’t even know what colors the floors are. It makes it feel less like a community working together through something hard, and more like we’re just passing through. Watching a group of people deal with something difficult, but not really taking part in it.
There are a lot of things that new students are missing out on, some that we haven’t even realized yet. Once we are back in the building these things will hit us hard, so don’t leave us in the dust. Don’t feel obligated to engage with us but keep in mind that we don’t feel like true members of TC. Give us time to assimilate and maybe give us a helping hand. We don’t want your pity, we just want your patience.