(Pixabay -Vladvictoria)

A ‘new normal’ unlike the old

By  Keith Baybayon, Youth Speak News
  • June 29, 2022

The pandemic has changed the way students have learned over two years. We experienced a change in semester learning, pivoted from in-person to virtual learning many times and could not spend time with our friends and family. Although, with schools reopening, clubs and sports returning and overnight trips and camps running, we were now experiencing a “new normal.”

As I am in my final year of high school, I desperately wanted a year similar to my experiences before the pandemic. The first step towards this “new normal” was the return of semester learning. 

Continuously pivoting from learning in quadmesters to modified semesters throughout the pandemic meant longer class hours and cohorting, though by the end we had returned to semester learning. I loved being able to attend shorter classes and seeing my friends daily; it was like a breath of fresh air. I could once again socialize with students outside of cohort groups and even learn more efficiently in the classroom. 

It felt quite surreal to see so many aspects of my school come back to life, such as the cafeteria service. I remember ordering my first cafeteria cookie in over two years and eating with my friends at the cafeteria table during lunch. We all missed the taste of these cookies. And we especially missed the poutine. 

I have been on my student council since Grade 9, and I was excited to plan events for students after such a long time. We planned spirit weeks and holiday-themed events and even gave away freezies! 

As we returned to in-person schooling this year, it granted us the opportunity to take on sports and extracurriculars once again.  I also have been on my school’s boys’ volleyball team since Grade 9, and it felt fantastic to play with my former teammates. I took on the role of captain within my school’s intramural league this year, eventually earning the championship title. 

As someone heavily engaged within my school community, one could acknowledge how excited I was to see everything returning to place. 

My school also gave a green light for overnight trips. When I found out about the opportunity to go to the TCDSB leadership camp — Camp Olympia — I immediately worked on gathering a team. We took over 30 students from my school to attend this camp at Huntsville, Ont., with nine other TCDSB schools, to partake in leadership development, camp activities and networking. I remember attending Camp Olympia years ago, and it was amazing to bring my school on this trip again. 

The pandemic took a lot of our high school experience away, so I wanted to plan out the prom for my graduating class. I worked diligently with the prom committee to finalize the venue, encourage students to purchase tickets and set out ground rules for the event. The moderators even granted me the opportunity to emcee. It was all in all the best night of our lives.   

Then came graduation, the day we have all been waiting for since entering the halls of McLuhan. My peers placed their trust in me to be the valedictorian and give the final goodbye to our last year of high school. 

It was an actual dream to speak to everyone and reminisce over our four years together, even with the many circumstances of the pandemic we faced.

My experience in high school has been an unforgettable journey. We are one of the known classes to have experienced high school before, during and after a pandemic. 

I am genuinely grateful to have been able to live out my final year of high school with so many opportunities given back to the students, as it has allowed me to grow‌. 

I feel wiser, smarter and more prepared to take on the world.

(Baybayon, 18, is a Grade 12 graduate of Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School in Toronto. He served as a student trustee with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.)

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