How High School Students in Orange County, California Are Really Coping

mindset Apr 23, 2020
 

ADULTS EVERYWHERE HAVE BEEN CURIOUS.

We’ve been wondering how they’ve been coping. Especially our high school seniors.The last three and a half years of their lives have led up to this defining moment.The pandemic and shut-down has kept adults home from their jobs, but we will eventually go back to work.

But for high school seniors, these moments can never return.The press has been weirdly silent on the issue.  Are teenagers reluctant to talk? Or are we just moving past their feelings to discuss matter of factly, “what needs to be done.”

What about the senior days, varsity sports, prom, awards, honor ceremonies, team banquets, college visits, graduation, parties, grad nites at Disneyland, celebrations, and all of those special memories that stay with people forever – those memories that are supposed to be the ones these seniors will share and treasure forever?

Our high school seniors have been looking forward to the rewards of working hard for the past three years, and finally being able to slow down a bit and enjoy high school. This was their moment!

But then there was that Friday.  Yes, that Friday. March 13, 2020. 

 

EVERYTHING WAS CANCELLED.

They got an email.

So impersonal.

School was cancelled.

Senior celebrations. Cancelled.

No direction about how to clear out lockers or even any indication of how long this thing would last, how they would take that test planned for the following week – or whether that essay was still due.  They were just told that for now, school was postponed, and that they would be expected to start their classes back up (online) the following Wednesday. 

Teachers and students scrambled, trying to figure out the logistics of shifting all of their learning to an online platform.  With all the uncertainty, anxiety, and some justified fear of the future, they were still given just two days to make this unprecedented shift from on-campus to in-home schooling.

And don’t forget the athletes … This year was supposed to be their year to shine. They had been working and training for this moment, hoping to prove themselves for scholarships and other opportunities.

Spring sports. Cancelled.

For most students, these initial announcements hit them like a sucker punch. They had so many questions, but no one seemed to have any answers. Still … the students were expected to study and carry on as before, even though they had no way of understanding what their new normal was going to be.

Because schools were initially unsure of the extent of eventual closures, some plans were kept in place, hoping for a quick return to normalcy.  Most California schools planned for a return to classes the Monday after Spring Break.But then another email…This one told them that they would not, in fact, be returning to school at all.

And if they had only known, had only had some inkling of what lie ahead, they would have cherished it more, said more goodbyes, and actually had some closure. Instead, they went home like every other day before … unknowingly missing that sacred moment – their last day of high school.


A TEENAGER’S PERSPECTIVE.

Georgia Glowaki is a senior at Mater Dei High School – a prestigious private high school in Orange County, California.  She was a member of the Varsity Lacrosse team, getting ready to enjoy her last season with the team as an Adrenaline 2020 All American Athlete, and was eagerly anticipating all of the exciting days ahead as the Spring Season of her senior year began.

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She started seeing some indications that the lacrosse season might not happen as she had planned. Some of the other schools started to cancel their games, and she wondered where it would lead.  But, even with this suspicion, the now infamous March 13th email still shook her, taking her and her classmates completely by surprise. 

Everything, it seemed, was just cancelled. 

Her last three years had been grueling. As a top student in her class, she had high expectations for herself, and knew those beginning high school years would define how she would be able to spend her senior year and where she would ultimately go to college.  Knowing this, she studied hard and trained hard – anticipating that all of her hard work and stress would pay off in a more enjoyable and easygoing last year. 

But with the email and phone calls from friends, she started to accept that everything she had planned for (and excitedly anticipated) was now gone. 

Gone from the mouths of adults and politicians who did not know her personally, but who stood up in press conferences and explained the risks of being near even the best of friends.

Policy decisions were handed down that effectually ended her senior plans and celebrations.

Now, she understands, of course.  She is intelligent and not one to selfishly put her own agenda ahead of protecting others from sickness (or even death), but she still feels sadness … and bitter disappointment … for what could have been. For what was supposed to be.

All the events and honors she worked so hard for have now been indefinitely postponed or cancelled.  But school continues, and she is still expected to perform as usual, keeping her grades up and turning in projects, all while trying to learn in a completely new way. So, the stress remains.

 

STAYING POSITIVE.

Surprisingly, Georgia is staying positive through it all. 

She said, “It’s really sad for sure. [I think] it’s important to respect and honor those feelings but not to dwell on them for too long, because all the worrying in the world will not affect the outcome. [I keep trying to have] positive thoughts and happy vibes – just kind of making the best of the situation.”

And although she hurts and feels the disappointment of what she describes as “losing her senior year,” she also believes that everything happens for a reason, and is willing to move forward with a future that is completely changed from what she had anticipated.

Although she is young, she displays wisdom beyond her years.

If she had a chance to put herself ten years into the future and could write a note to the teenage girl she is now, she said this: [I would tell her that] “something bigger is going to come from this. This is a time where [you] can learn to grow yourself and focus on yourself and [understand that] really hard work gets you places in life. Just because this sad thing happened, don’t give up.”

 

WHAT TEACHERS SHOULD KNOW.

Georgia wants her teachers to know she is grateful for them and understands how hard they are working to keep classes going. But she would also encourage them to look beyond the obvious and try to understand that it is really hard for some students to learn from home. Not only are there different learning styles (and capabilities) to consider and anxieties about the future to deal with, but it is can also be very difficult to get motivated with a house full of people and without the traditional structure of a classroom.

Some kids are having to share a computer with the rest of the family, and well … that can be a struggle to say the least. She asks all teachers to please consider the students’ perspective during these last few weeks.

 

HOW ARE THE PARENTS DOING? NOT GOOD, BARB.

When asked about what teens want their parents to know, she hesitated. 

Do teenagers ever think about what their parents might be feeling?

This has been really hard on the parents too.

They have invested in their child.  Taught them to walk. Taught them how to ride a bike. Have celebrated the smallest successes with them as they have grown. Have shown up to every game, rally, awards assembly, open house, banquet, band concert and theater production. They have been there to support and encourage their children for these past eighteen years, knowing they have only a finite number of years before their child goes off to college and starts living a life without them.

Their child’s senior year was supposed to be the climax of it all.

The “seniors day” for athletes, honors and awards, prom and graduation are precious days for parents too.

This pandemic has stolen these moments from parents too.

Mater Dei High School understands the pain that many of their students are feeling, so they placed signs at every senior’s home to acknowledge and celebrate them.  When the sign was dropped off for Georgia, she and her mom just held each other. “My mom and I just stood outside and held each other, crying.”

 
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Georgia later said, “I realized in that moment, when I was outside with my mom, how much it was affecting her.”  “I was like, I didn’t realize that you’re sad too – like I thought it was all about me – in my bubble, in my senior year, in my senior season, how is this fair?” “But you are also feeling the same way – so it was just a nice realization moment.”

The parents are suffering.  Those moments they enthusiastically looked forward to are not happening. And now, they are trying to support their teens, but they also don’t quite understand how to deal with their own feelings about it all.

If there is one thing we can take from this experience … that one thing that seniors and other high schoolers want their parents and teachers and friends to understand, Georgia said this: “There’s a lot more going on than what people see. It goes deeper than missing out on our senior year.”

Overall, she acknowledged that teens understand, and are trying to comply with the orders that have been put in place by politicians and their parents. But, they are also struggling between trying to “find the positive in all of this” and realizing that the senior year they expected, worked for, and looked forward to is gone.  They are trying to find good, but they are also sad.

Let’s help wherever we can.

Teachers.  Please remember that not all students can easily learn at home with all of the distractions and learning limitations they face there.

Parents.  Even though you feel like you have also been deprived of this year, be there for your kids in whatever way they need (even if they don’t know what that is.) Be more aware of the layers that are not showing right now.

This pandemic has required us to think and feel in ways we never expected (or wanted). But take heart in knowing that our teenagers are showing great courage.  They are sad. They are disappointed. But they are also looking forward to new opportunities and focusing on their futures in a way that brings hope. 

 Let us join them in solidarity with that vision of hope for the future and all of the good things that the next years will bring.

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