Spirits High in the Student Body for Back-to-School

Spirits High in the Student Body for Back-to-School

After over a year of unconventional remote learning, some EHS students have gained a newfound appreciation for the atmosphere of physical schooling, citing the EHS social scene as one of the aspects of in-person schooling they were looking forward to for the 2021-2022 school year. Out of all the aspects of conventional schooling they were looking forward to, the aspect that the EHS students interviewed repeatedly brought up was face-to-face social interaction. 

Even self-described introvert Allen De Sagun ’22, who enjoyed at-home schooling in its beginning stages, stated, “As the days turned into months, I slowly began to yearn for the little things that I had grown accustomed to while at school. The pandemic was an eye-opener to how much I relied on school for social interaction.” 

De Sagun was not alone in those sentiments. While school is not the only place students socialize, it provides access to communication with a large, diverse set of people beyond immediate friend groups, which Soumya Joshi ’24 described as “being able to catch a friend in the halls and share a quick conversation, having conversations with new people, or eating lunch together.” Alyson Zhang ’22 even said that she felt the benefits of that access to communication at MacBook pickups.

“I was so happy to see so many people I haven’t seen in ages,” Zhang said.   

Sharing similar sentiments, Sophomores Archit Dwivedi ‘24, Sanjana Ramesh ‘24, and Wen Gao ’24 all stated that they missed being able to socialize with people during the school day, especially with their friends. Even though digital technology made virtual communication possible, the medium of Zoom calls was not suited for witty quips in passing or the ability to “goof around,” as Gao phrased it. Although such social interactions are not necessary for educative purposes and may even be derided as distractions, student interview responses suggest that such playfulness helped build connections in the classroom and that its absence may have been responsible for the feelings of emotional, not just physical, distance that some students felt during online and hybrid schooling. 

“I miss seeing my friends in the hallway,” Ramesh stated. “I miss everyone laughing in class when someone makes a joke.” Of course, students could literally “see” their friends through video meetings, but as Ramesh implies, the full EHS experience could not be experienced without rapport-building moments as simple as a class coming together to appreciate a well-delivered joke. 

“The atmosphere of [in-person] school is so much more lively,” Pooja Katara ’24 included.

Also describing more than just physical distance altering social interaction in the classroom, Ramesh cites “being able to ask a lot of questions” and “going up to a teacher and asking for help when it’s needed” as aspects of in-person schooling she missed during remote learning, implying that there was a barrier to doing interactions still technically possible through an online format. Beyond the lack of a physical classroom environment, it’s possible that the need to unmute before speaking and the inability to engage in side conversations with peers stifled student social engagement, not necessarily because students did not want to engage, but because engagement required extra steps. 

Beyond the lack of a physical classroom environment, it’s possible that the need to unmute before speaking and the inability to engage in side conversations with peers stifled student social engagement, not necessarily because students did not want to engage, but because engagement required extra steps.

However, it’s true that in-person schooling comes with its own downsides. De Sagun and Gao both comically lamented on hallway stench.

 “I don’t miss the gnarly smelling hallways,” Gao said. De Sagun similarly commented, “Who would miss the overcrowded and pungent-smelling hallways of EHS, the long and loud bus rides to school at seven in the morning?” Across the board, long commutes, especially for North Edison STEM students attending Edison High, and waking up early were the more popular downsides interviewees mentioned.  

“While most offline interactions had online analogs, some have been missing from this school year-and-a-half spent online. Likewise, though, I expect that I will miss some aspects of online school which are similarly irreplicable in person,” Vinay Menon ’23 summarizes.

As Menon points out, in-person social interaction is not interchangeable with online social interaction, and while in-person comes with many benefits, aspects of online school, such as no commutes, will be missed by some.

In addition to the return of commutes and hallway odor, Covid and overcrowding has tempered student desire for the return to normalcy. 

“I’m just a little worried about how overcrowded we are,” Zhang stated. On the same theme, Brianna Pollock ’22 described EHS hallways as “crammed bottlenecking,” a characterization not helped by the fact that the EHS student body has increased from the 2020-2021 to 2021-2022 school year. Other students mentioned mixed feelings about returning back to school. 

“I’m a bit conflicted about going to school in person,” Arjun Dubewar ’22 said. “It is impossible that we will be able to follow the COVID-19 guidelines safely due to how many students that attend the high school.” Similarly, Arjun Sudhalkar ’23 said, “I feel that it is very important that we start the return to normalcy. However, we should also consider the health issues and how coronavirus can spread if we all return at once.” 

Despite overcrowding concerns, interviewees described a newfound appreciation for in-person schooling. When deprived of simple experiences once taken for granted, students have gained new appreciation for the in-person experience. 

“Learning virtually for over a year has made me realize the small things about in-person school that I often took for granted,” Simran Jakate ’22 said.

Other students cited similar changes in perspectives. “I have become grateful for in person schooling a lot more,” Dwivedi stated. In fact, the return to in-person schooling is particularly momentous for sophomores because despite technically being in their second year, they are still unfamiliar with the EHS building. 

“I am definitely more appreciative of school during this back to school season than years prior, especially since this will technically be my first year of high school,” Joshi said. 

Seniors in particular remain excited to regain some of their lost time.

“Under normal circumstances, I would dread the first day of school. However, I am returning excited with a newfound appreciation of the social opportunities school provides me with,” De Sagun said.