The Gleaner
Education

Students prepare for next steps as normalcy approaches

The past two school years have been unlike any that current students have had to face. They were expected to adapt and deal with constant changes extremely quickly. But what does this mean for next steps in their education, when everything has been so jarring?

Ethan Iverson is a recent graduate of Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR) and spent his grade 10 and grade 11 years navigating these changes. On hybrid learning, he says “Luckily I was in the one per cent of people that found success with it. I love being at home because you can do your own thing … For us, our teachers assigned work for the period and if you did it, perfect, if you didn’t, you’d just be putting yourself behind.”

 

CVR Class of 2021 graduate Ethan Iverson. PHOTO Courtesy of Ethan Iverson

 

The shift to an entirely online model did throw him a bit of a curveball: “The two weeks after the Christmas break were fulltime online, and that for me was probably the biggest struggle.”

Amidst the uncertainty, he was also applying for CEGEP and hoping to be accepted into John Abbott’s professional theatre program (which can be very difficult to get into). Having to audition for this program through Zoom was definitely an experience Iverson will not quickly forget. “It was nine in the morning, my dad was sleeping after he’d worked a night shift, and he was like ‘Buddy, don’t worry about me, you sing your heart out and do your audition.’ So, at nine in the morning, I’m in my house and I’m belting West Side Story, dancing to Tupac, and doing my monologue.”

He explains that he was “really nervous because it was my dream program and going in everyone was asking me ‘what’s your backup plan?’ I had one, but that wasn’t my passion. It felt like people were telling me they didn’t think I was going to get in. I wanted to prove them wrong.”

He has been accepted into this program and will be starting in the fall.

Liah Anania graduated from CVR in 2020 and had to manage the transition from high school to CEGEP in the middle of the pandemic. She is currently studying at CEGEP Champlain St-Lambert in Sports Management.

Shockingly, she has not been physically in the school since she visited as a prospective student. “Every class was online this semester and I have not been to the school since open house.” After a grade 11 year during which teachers emphasized how different CEGEP is, it was anticlimactic: “It feels weird, it feels like I didn’t even go to school this year. It was strange being home all the time.”

 

Champlain St-Lambert student Liah Anania. PHOTO Courtesy of Liah Anania

 

Many of the milestones that happen after you graduate high school haven’t happened for Anania yet. “I don’t know what it’s like yet to take the metro or the bus to school and back every single day, or what the classrooms are like or what the teachers are like. For me, it was a lot less scary this year than our teachers said last year. The transition was great for now.”

However, at the same time “It’s very stressful, because I have met everyone in my classes in an online setting and I could recognize anyone’s voice but I don’t know what they look like, which is the funniest thing.”
Jamy Lee Poole, who graduated from CVR in 2018, will be starting in Concordia University’s psychology program this fall after graduating from John Abbott’s social science with math program in December of 2020. Poole took some time before university because of the pandemic.

“I was doing school online and I decided to take time off to breathe [and] figure out what I wanted to do. [There was] a big push to make that decision because I felt [that] investing $2,000 to jump into university right away in a global pandemic was not part of my priorities.”

Taking a job and waiting out the pandemic, Poole found it much less inspiring than classes. “I worked a full-time office job then and I realized that that’s not what I wanted to do, and appreciated school so much. I jumped right back in and applied for university, knowing that I might still go back to school online because it was still uncertain.”

The switch from online CEGEP to possible in-person university means some big changes for Poole. “I’m definitely stressed about having to plan two hours of travelling per day, making sure my lunch is ready, having to get dressed and not stay in pyjamas all day. It’s definitely a big change, but also I think it’ll be good for the general public to get away from home.”

 

Jamy Lee Poole will be starting her degree in psychology at Concordia University this fall. PHOTO Courtesy of Jamy Lee Poole

 

Poole also recognizes that it will be important for many people to have a safe space again after being forced to stay home for so long. “I found a lot of comfort in studying at home because I was in the ideal situation. I have a lot of empathy for people who have had to do school online with a chaotic household or a toxic household. For a lot of people, school is safety and breaking the chaos.”

All three of these students have expressed uncertainty over next year. But one thing that they agree on is that the pandemic has brought lessons in adaptability.

Besides academic adaptability, Iverson explains that social adaptability was important. Because of the hybrid model, many friend groups were divided. “People got to talk to people who were out of their circle, especially if all their friends were gone. There’s a beauty in it when you develop camaraderie with the people in your group.”

Poole mentions that being financially adaptable has been important as well. While still in school, she was working as a server during a very unpredictable time. “Not knowing when I could go back to work, or … knowing that I could be out of a job by the next day, was definitely stressful and it challenged me to rely on my safety net or my savings. [The pandemic] definitely made me adapt to that.”

Though it is not certain what next year will look like for these students, they are ready to jump in. Recent times have meant getting concrete answers to anything can be difficult, and plans can change overnight. The eventual return to normalcy will be one more challenge to student adaptability at all levels.

 

 

 

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