I’ve lost track of the time, but it’s been about six weeks since I’ve seen any of my teachers in person. I’ve been home, like all the other students in New York, working as diligently as my lack of motivation permits as I toil away the hours on Zoom calls and online assignments. COVID-19 has deprived my class of its senior year and all the fun things that go with it. But I’m doing my best to explore the positive aspects of this situation, too.
For the first couple of weeks of isolation, the coronavirus pandemic still didn’t seem like reality to me. Living in OtsegoCounty, it was still easy for me to dismiss the gravity of the pandemic, which was clustered downstate in New York City and places such as New Rochelle. It wasn’t until the beginning of April when cases began to appear in higher quantities in upstate New York that reality significantly changed for me. For the most part, it was business as usual with my school work, of which a large portion was already conducted online before the pandemic hit. I was appreciative of the extra freedom in my days to sleep, go outside, read, etc.
Our situation as students is far more dire than I realized at the time in early March. No one expected we would not return to school this year, which turned out to be the case. I thought that I would get a nice, extra long spring break and then I would finish out my senior year. As time has revealed, my predictions were in fact delusions.
I will not likely walk across the stage this June and shake hands with my principal and receive my diploma. I expect that the ceremony will probably involve me, walking to my mailbox, and opening a package containing my certificate. As you can imagine, this is a rather underwhelming alternative.
Most of all though, I’m going to miss seeing my teachers in person for the last time before l go off to college. Whether my peers recognize it or not, the educators at our schools play one of the biggest roles in our lives from the age of 5 to 18. Our teachers have supported us on our journey of education, but more importantly on our journey of discovery. For the past 13 years, we have spent six hours per day (minimum) for 180 days out of the year with these amazing individuals who devote their lives to making sure we succeed. I’m generally not a fan of math, but if my calculator has served me right, that amounts to 14,040 hours of time spent with our teachers.
To suddenly be separated from the educators who have made themselves dependable to me and countless others on a daily basis is the loss of an entire lifestyle. I am so grateful to my educators who have communicated with me via email, phone and over video conference because I get to see them and chat at least for a few moments. Even so, none of those compare to the experience of seeing all of my teachers face-to-face. It’s just not the same.
As I’m entering the seventh week of self-isolation, I’ve had plenty of time getting cozy with my own thoughts and reflecting on life before this crisis. One of the recurring ideas has been how we tend to forget the significance that the people we see in our life everyday play such an integral role in our own lives. It’s easy to forget, as you walk down the hallways seeing the same faces each day, that these people have shaped your life and will continue to do so through the rest of your future. Who we decide to be is the direct result of who we surround ourselves with, whether we like it or not.
The world is lucky to have our teachers. Certainly they produce the next greatest mathematicians, artists, musicians, etc. But the greatest lesson that any individual learns from teachers goes beyond the confines of a textbook or a syllabus. Teachers give us the tools — respect, responsibility, compassion — to survive the world even when things get rough, which seems pretty appropriate given the present circumstances.
To my readers, this I implore you: Send a message to a teacher. Tell them you appreciate them. Tell them how much they mean to you. I would figuratively and literally be lost today without their lessons (specifically the ones in geography). I hope any teacher who reads this knows just how much all your students can’t wait to see you again.
Matthew Frederick is a senior at Oneonta High School. He can be contacted at email@example.com.