Here are more reflections submitted by my students as part of Global Student Project My Return to School During Covid19. My students look forward to reading their peers’ reflections from other Jesuit schools around the world.  Thank you!

Returning to School: Kabir, 14, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

Returning to School: Luka, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA  

I think this elucidates my experience with the pandemic. Although I was at first disappointed from the pandemic at it had put my life on hold, I was also grateful. I was able to take a step back and look at the larger image. I realized how paved the road was for me. I chose this picture because it highlights my feelings on the pandemic. It has been rough and I have been disappointed, maybe sometimes I lost my footing and fell onto the rough dirt that surrounded the road. Sometimes where I fell in the dirt would be the sudden loss of connections once we shutdown, when my brother went away to college, and when I would do poorly on a test or my grades would drop. Some of these things made me feel guilt or self- hatred. But I also had some great highs where I knew that I was on the road, like getting accepted into Bellarmine and starting water polo. Things like that helped keep me joyful, optimistic, and grateful. Through the pandemic, I realized the path that was traveled for me and how I should be grateful for it.

Returning to School: Nate, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

I think that my covid experience is similar to the one read aloud in class a few days ago. I do understand how fortunate I am to be having a school-like experience right now, even coming into campus. However, even though this year was a success (comparatively to other schools and how they are working), I was not always at Bellarmine. This is my first year, and the previous school I went to was far less successful and still is far less successful. My middle school is a public school, so already it does not have the type of funding that Bellarmine has to invest in things like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Azure / Surface For Organizations, and all the other things that helped this year work the way it did. I still remember the day when people first figured out that school might be closed for a while; there was a rumor that they were going to close school for three weeks. At the time, people thought this was an overreaction, that it was just another flu, and that it was not worth paying attention to. However, most of the kids were happy that they did not have to attend school for three weeks.

I began writing down what I was thinking (I did this from March 18th to April 28th, then began just writing down the stats that you see in bold above reflections):

In this, I said that March 18th was 5 days after the three weeks began, meaning it started on March 13th. On March 27th, I said this:

14 days after school let out, distance learning began for me. Bellarmine has a team of people that manage the Azure cloud / Office suite, OneDrive, Creative Cloud, and the other services. The only service that all of my teachers used in middle school was Google Classroom. It was totally up in the air whether we would meet via Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Google Meet, or some other app that I don’t remember the name of. We did not have a schedule for online school. We got some more clarity on the 9th of April: 

I didn’t even know how to spell Asynchronous yet, and now I can type it without even thinking. This somewhat terrible school year continued into spring break:

I continued to be confused by what was happening. Some teachers, like my math teacher, were good about it and gave us a balanced amount of work to do. My science teacher was the other end of the spectrum, assigning work almost never, and when she did, the links were broken and the websites led to dead ends. My French teacher decided that she would forego the smaller, more frequent assignments, and assign larger projects due later. My point here is that nobody had a plan. It was all in shambles and unorganized. Nobody knew what to do. My covid experience is one of confusion, disappointment at a lack of graduating, not being able to see friends like normal over summer, and then back to school at Bellarmine. My sister goes to WGMS now and they are doing online school better. There is an actual school day, with video calls, and they will soon attempt to bring people back to campus. My conclusion is that almost nobody was prepared; schools, offices, medical facilities, governments, they all had to do a mad scramble to get back into working order. I hope that people take away how to be more prepared for a future pandemic so this does not happen again.

Returning to School: Ramzey, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

At the very beginning of Covid, I was very worried and annoyed. At times I even felt lonely. I have a brother and a sister who are both towards the end of their college experience. So that leaves me being somewhat of an only child at home with my parents. Every once in a while my siblings come back during their breaks and always during summer. But at the start of this pandemic my mom was confused whether she should have them come back home or stay down in Southern California. Going to school and hanging out with my friends was one of the ways that kept me not bored and feeling as if I was an only child. I love when there is noise and many people in the environment. And so when we went into this lockdown I was confused on how I would replicate that feeling without being able to be in physical contact with people. Although it was hard at first, eventually I came to find out that one of the main ways I would keep in contact would be by playing video games with my friends. Before Covid started I would only play video games on weekends. But after it hit, I started playing almost every day. And yes there is always the scientific studies saying kids being on their phones or computer too much can lead to a variety of issues later on in life. But really at the time that wasn’t what I was focused on. Eventually my brother and sister came back home and really that was when Covid being a negative thing turned into a somewhat positive experience for me.

When my brother and sister arrived not only was I a lot more grateful and excited, but I started working a lot on my mental and physical health. Before Covid I had a really tight schedule and so I was never really able to have alone time a just work on myself. For example when Covid hit I started doing weights with my brother and just a lot of other workouts for my body. I never had time to do this before but in the moment I did because sports were all cancelled. I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to get out of shape so that when I returned to sports I would be one of the few that was still up to speed and actually came back with more muscle. Over Covid I saw a huge difference in my strength and muscle but not only did I see a change in that. I also saw a change in the way I would think and act. I was a lot more positive when speaking and also more gentle. I started taking my time to gather my thoughts more and also articulate more. Before Covid I would tend to talk as if I was in a rush or at times sometimes as if I was asleep. But I was finally able to find my middle ground. Although this pandemic was ultimately a negative experience due to the countless amount of lives lost, for me I tried to make the best of it and be grateful for what I had.

Returning to School: Robert, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

This picture does a great job of representing how I was scared, overwhelmed, and confused at the beginning of the covid quarantine, but now as I look back, I feel gratitude for my wellbeing throughout it all. There was so much going on in the beginning of 2020 and all of my plans, future events, and school just shattered with quarantine. I was overcome by a feeling of insecurity and vulnerability like the picture on the left. I was so lucky throughout my whole experience as my parents maintained their jobs, were able to supply my family, and maintain safety. There were so many people and families that suffered because of their work, income, or potentially infected life. As I look back at my experience now, I feel so grateful for the amount of problems my family was able to get past, along with being grateful for the person I became to overcome the challenges I faced.

Returning to School: Sam, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

During the Covid pandemic, I have come to spend more time with my family since the shelter in place and also I was able to feel a bit more relaxed entering high school. When the shelter in place was first announced, I really think it was that big of a deal and sort of ignored it and shrugged it off as an over exaggeration. However, soon enough, Covid-19 hit hard and caused so many schools to shut down and restaurants, malls, theaters and so many other places. And soon enough people began to panic and take a ton of items for themselves like toilet paper and that’s when I realized that this was serious. I was scared at first because I had never experienced anything this chaotic in my life especially a pandemic. I was worried that one of my family members was going to attract Covid and was very paranoid to even go to the store.

Although I was right to be scared, I also began to think about how we were going to adapt to the new environment. I was think to myself ‘when is this going to end’ and ‘is it really that dangerous’. And the main thought I had was how was I going to go to school. This though hit me especially hard because I had just gotten news that I got accepted into Bellarmine and I thought if we were even going to have school or how I was going to finish up the last few months of 8th grade. Soon though, everything became adjusted fairly quickly and it came to the conclusion of online school. At first it was very stressful because sometimes the wifi went out or the paper you turned in didn’t and it was very confusing. But when It came time for Bellarmine, they had everything sorted out and what especially helped was the Bell prep over the summer and learning how to use teams. Soon after that it became very easy and we even started to go in person some days. Its now April and I feel more comfortable and I know more on how to protect ourselves from the virus and how to do school work and things like that.

Returning to School: Sawyer, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

This cage represents my whole COVID-19 experience. To be more specific, it represents my (and others) limited freedom. My family had a bunch of plans laid out for spring break and summer, and I was getting really excited to go on vacation and have an awesome graduation ceremony for 8th grade and say goodbye to all my friends because they were all going to Westmont High School and I was the only one going to Bellarmine. It was sad, and it was even sadder when we didn’t get a graduation and didn’t really get to say goodbye to my friends because we couldn’t see each other. That was one of the big problems for me. I didn’t mind school being online as much because I could sleep in and get more stuff done at home. As mentioned earlier, not being able to spend time with my friends affected me. I wasn’t exactly lonely, because I have 2 brothers and a dog, but I felt like I was missing something, and that was my friends. I live within walking distance of 3 of my friends, so it was like torture at first, not being able to walk over to one of their houses and shoot hoops or bike around the trail or neighborhood or watch a movie.
So back to the cage, my opportunities to hang out with my friends were very limited. Also, at the time, baseball and swim teams were cancelled, so I didn’t have any in-person interaction for a couple months there. I ended up playing more video games, not an unhealthy amount, but for me it was too much. I love sports more than anything, so missing out on sports was affecting me mentally.

These were all the bad things that happened to me, but a lot of good came out of it too. I learned to turn bad things into motivation to work even harder and be prepared for when sports started up again. And as mentioned earlier, missing out on sports was affecting me socially and mentally, but not physically. I was working out 5-6 days a week, still do actually, and I was hitting in the batting cages, throwing with my brother, and running 4 times a week. I’ve found that working out and doing other physical activities makes me feel fulfilled, and if I don’t do any working out or baseball, I get bored and depressed and anxious.

It is not diagnosed, but I have slight depression and anxiety, mostly because I will feel good one day, and the smallest thing will turn my mood, and I feel terrible, and although I had a therapist I could talk to, COVID ended it. So when baseball started, I was incredibly grateful. I could talk to my friends on my team 5 days a week, work hard and compete, and have fun.

If I could list the most important thing this taught me, it would be hard work and faith in those working hard to get things back to normal. I worked hard on my own for baseball, and when it came, I was ready. Also, don’t let a caged world affect your mentality and personality. It may be restricting, but you have to get out and do things yourself so you are ready for what’s next. Restricting is just a test to see how strong mentally you are, so if anything, you come out of the restriction ready and confident and a better version if you play your cards right.

Returning to School: Zac, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

The Covid-19 pandemic was sure a venture for all of us. Its been an entire year, and we’ve been stuck at home for most of it. While the pandemic was a horrible tragedy, it has been by far the most influential year of my life. Throughout the year I have grown exponentially, not only physically, but mentally as well.

Mentally, Covid has sure been a journey. I remember when lockdown started I was in the middle of 8th grade, and was about to leave on a class trip to Washington DC. I had been looking forward to this trip for all my middle school years, and was extremely disappointed when I found out that the trip would be cancelled. Similar things continued to happen throughout lockdown, and it has really taught me a lot about taking opportunities for granted.

I’ve grown so much more mature throughout the lockdown, and I know I’m am much better off as a person after going through the pandemic. This is another reason I believe everything happens for a reason. Although this past year has not been the greatest, it has provided me with insight to grow as a person, and better myself as a student and a future contributor to my society.
Zac, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA