Back in the Building, But Are We Back to Normal?

Kevin Genis Tlaseca, Writer

This year has been a strange one for everyone. School just started full time and many of us are back in school. So, I wanted to know how students and teachers are seeing this year so far, and wanted to know their opinions and perspectives. I asked a series of questions but I’ll focus on the first two that I asked. A lot of the responses were similar, which is to be expected. Hopefully with this article I’ll be able to shine some light on the questions that aren’t normally asked of students and teachers, and get a sense of what they think.

What does a normal school year look like?

Jayla – “No masks, just able to do school things, and not worrying about the 6 feet policy.”

Sophia- “Hard. Grades are very difficult to get high (Chuckle). But, friends if you can find them are good. Drama sucks though.”

Jaden- “People being able to conjoin and commune with each other normally without the mandates, installed by the government who’s trying to take over everything.”

Jayden- “Mainly just a lot of socializing, you know? Places being crowded and stuff like that. Pepfests and all that.”

Jennifer Rollings- “Students in person, being able to interact in real time with students, and have the students interact with each other. Also normal, just the idea that people kind of had the routine and skills part of school.”

Kari-Lee Berg- “Well it looks like everybody in class, having class five days a week, having students focused while they’re in class, using time in class to work on classwork. That’s what normal seems like to me.”

Kelly Beulke-Like it does this year – full classrooms, students collaborating, teachers working with students in person, pep fests!”

These similarities weren’t surprising. For a lot of people, normal means socializing and having human interaction in their lives. For teachers it meant having students back in their class, and being able to do normal school work. Comparing students to teachers, a normal school year was similar in terms of socializing, but it was a little different in that teachers focused on having a normal experience teaching in the classroom. But one thing that both can agree on is that a normal school year is one where teachers and students are together and interacting. It just goes to show how we may take something as simple as being able to go to school and for some, being able to teach in school, for granted. 

What does this current school year look like? 

Jayla– “Honestly, the most normal since everything started.”

Sophia- (After hearing Jaden’s comment) “I can agree with that. Lot’s of people, even today I overheard a conversation that these two kids were going to fight after school. There’s already been three, four fights in the school? One of them happened outside my bus on the first day of school…. A lot more fights definitely this year, versus other years. It’s ridiculous.”

Jaden-This is a very strange school year, because we just came off of stuff about covid, when it was a big problem, and everyone was focusing on that. But, now problems have once again shifted away from covid because it’s not super scary anymore, and shifted more towards the race stuff, and it’s causing rifts in our society. It’s trickling down into school, all the comments I hear in the hall, all the conversation I hear. Everything has race in it, everything has violence, everything involves some sort of separatists information.”

Jayden- “Honestly, I think things are starting to look more normal. Last year for example, there were less people, we were social distancing, but now it’s like… barely have to wear a mask anymore. People are allowed to socialize again, it’s still not like, one hundred percent normal, but it’s getting there.”

Jennifer Rolling- “I had really hoped that we would’ve had the time and resources over the summer to think about what covid had been like, and what it was like before and where we wanted it to go. Everything was a mess, and it was all going to be work to go into anything, whether it was back to what we’d done before, or to something new. I wished we used that a bit more to think about what we wanted to move to, as far as something new, because we did try to go back to what we did before, and that’s been really tough. Especially, when we started this year, like if I asked you guys to talk to somebody right away, there was real hesitancy in some classes to do so. It was much more like, I want to just be on my own, doing my own thing. Whereas before covid, if I was like, turn and talk to your neighbors, and like people are talking before I’m even done (Chuckle). There was that isolation that a lot of people had, and for some people they’re still not out of that.”

Kari-Lee Berg- “It’s super weird (Chuckle). Like, it’s still five days a week, I still have most of the kids in my classes, most of the days. But I feel like the attitude, the student attitude is much different, and the work ethic is different, for some kids not all, but it really varies across the group of students in each class. I have some kids who are really focused, and it feels very pre pandemic. They’re doing their work in class, they’re interested in being caught up, and on time. Then I have other students who are physically here, but their work level isn’t here at all. For me it’s more about student focus or student work in the classroom, I don’t have any of the behaviors that some people have talked about. My classes are really good as far as behavior, everybody feels like they’re in class and appropriate, and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. But, in some of my classes they’re all doing their own thing.”

Kelly Beulke-“Everyone to be back in person – it was very challenging to teach effectively when teachers and students weren’t physically in the same space.”

Everybody has had a different interpretation with this school year so far, as seen in the responses. Some are seeing it as a really good thing, and as a stepping stone for the years to come, as we try to heal from the past and usher back the school experience. Teachers in particular are seeing student behavior that they’ve never had problems with, and something that’s been far more frequent on Coon Rapids High School grounds, which is the sudden rise in violence. Many can recall the fight that happened on the first day of school, and teachers I asked also reported that there were multiple fights in one day. The list of fights this school year has already had are many, and the concerns that really come with this is that students have a right to have a safe learning environment, free of disruptions. I think we can all agree that school should not be a violent place, but that’s what many of us are seeing and hearing about.

This year has been a strange one so far, and we’re seeing so many different things happening now that we’re back in school. This is different for students and teachers, but we can all see their perspectives. Yes, this school year is the most normal of the past years, and to many is a nice transition back to a normal school year. Teachers in particular are seeing students easing back into the expectations and routines of school. While some are seeing an increase of student roughness. I believe that with communication, patience, and awareness we all can go back into that normal school year we all know to be.