A New Normal

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By Gabriel Cook, Staff Writer

This past year has been different to say the least. Covid-19 has affected everybody and everything, especially this school year for me personally. As a freshman my year and so many others have been marked by this pandemic. It was especially difficult to socialize and immerse myself into the new school environment. Our relationships with teachers and each other have been greatly diminished, and teachers have had to drastically change their teaching methods to accommodate this deadly disease. 

My experience as a high school student so far has been really different to earlier years in New Paltz. At first I was taught at home until seventh grade. I went to a private school with four people in my entire 7th and 8th grade. It was a huge jump to the concentrated surroundings of the high school, from my tiny private school.  Another issue that I personally found is that because I didn’t go to the middle school and I didn’t really know most of the other students in my classes, making it extra difficult to immerse myself into the high school conditions. There are also several other people who also didn’t go to New Paltz Middle School. Many of our freshmen have gone to Mountain Laurel or another private school instead of the middle school and have experienced the same things that I have experienced.

 “I went from a Waldorf school with only ten people in my class…then when everything went back there’s just so many people, I’ve never been to school with many people in my life,” said Ana Kirsch.    

Another side effect of the pandemic is the relationships between the teachers and the students that have been compromised. Ana Kirsch said “There’s definitely a disconnect between the teachers and the students,”. Given the circumstances freshmen have felt pressure fro 

“It’s a little weird to see my teachers on the screen,” said Henry Wheeler. 

For me, even though I already knew some of the faculty of the school and I still feel as if there is a huge distance that I haven’t quite breached from me and my teachers. The best way I can put it is like having the first day of school everyday this year, I know who they are but not enough to have a real learning relationship. For example, finding out how they teach, grade and conduct class to name just a few aspects of the things that I would personally think about soi can do the best in my classes. That’s almost impossible as it is pointless now as we reach the closing of the year.    

Teachers this year have also had to adapt drastically to this confusing and different  year. The role of teachers is absolutely necessary, and they have had to take advantage of this online experience, by not knowing their own students and by having less participation in classes and clubs. The teachers at this school are experienced to say the very least, and this year has been difficult to work with freshmen in particular. “The beginning of the year is always when I get to know most of my freshmen. We normally do getting to know you activities and hear everyone sing in class and I do voicings to learn what their voice was like… but not knowing their faces and not being able to hear their voices, made it harder to connect with them.” said Nicole Foti, the choir director for New Paltz. Not having a chance to know the people they’re teaching has really made the job of most teachers much harder to put it mildly. 

Another aspect of the high school experience is clubs or after school activities. Clubs like Youth for Unity, Mock Trial, and acapella choir have had to be either diminished or cancelled for the year. Some teachers have found it hard to incorporate Freshmen into the clubs in the first place and then, when they get there, to help them learn and socialize and contribute. 

“It was definitely harder to get freshmen involved with my acapella club,” said Mrs Foti. “My sophomores, my juniors, my seniors, they already know what this club is about, But my freshmen have never really seen it in action. I did really reach out to a lot of freshmen but there wasn’t that connection.” 

In the case of mock trial, this year the team was about to take on their final match in the county championship after coming off of a loss “I had to make the decision on the practice before the meet to make a regimented hard practice or a relaxed calm practice.” Mr. Cook, mock trial advisor (and father of the writer), chose to have a relaxed practice. “Everyone was just beginning to talk to one another and really socialize, usually it is quiet for the first couple of minutes and then a buzz sets in, but that was just happening this year. and that was important,” he said.

All this school year we have endured countless struggles through Covid-19 and the side effects that set on the class of 2024. Not being able to learn and socialize have been difficult but we have just about made it through this year and even created some positive skills, such as working with google meets which can breach some gaps that couldn’t be reached without it, or the school system becoming more digital and organized. We freshmen have changed and adjusted in incredible ways to accommodate this year, but we still must be safe. 

Featured Photo: Aidan Sheedy