Blog: A school day like no other

First day back at school, 2021.

Credit: Cailyn Johnson

First day back at school, 2021.

Cailyn Johnson, Journalism student

Unnatural. That is a word I would use to describe my first day back in school after almost a year of virtual learning. 

“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP” 

“Alexa, off,” I groan. 

I turn over and look at the clock. It reads 6:15 am, but even the sky is still asleep. Normally I would still have another hour until I needed to wake up. I lie in bed for a few minutes as my mind races. I am actually going back to school. How crazy is that? 

I roll out of bed, still groggy. Slowly, in a haze I make my bed, brush my teeth and hair and get dressed. The thought of dressing a little nicer occurs to me. On the first day of school everyone dresses up. It is the middle of the year but right now it feels like the first day of school. 

As I see my bus rounding the corner, I finish my smoothie, grab my backpack and rush out the door. But not before my mom can take a “first day of school” picture.

The bus driver directed me to the back of the bus (to maintain distance). Instead of the noisy chatter of students, today the only sound I could hear was the bus engine. The rest of the bus ride stayed quiet as it was just me, the bus driver, and another boy. 

I arrive at RCMS and the bell rings…it’s music to my ears. I never thought I would miss that bell, but it brought me a sense  of school nostalgia. 

I am immediately greeted by enthusiastic welcomes from behind masked staff members. I follow the arrows on the floor into the library. 

Allow me to share a few classroom observations I experienced today. 

Each of my classes looked and felt a little different. Two of my classes had classroom monitors. One of those classes was in the library, and the other one was in a classroom. My other classes today had me log onto BBCU while the teacher was also logged into her laptop behind their plexiglass, which was strange.

My first class of the day was online – just like it would’ve been at home. Since my teacher remained virtual, a classroom monitor, along with the librarian, greeted me. A few more kids trickled into the library as the bell rang. I sat down at a table in the library and logged on to Blackboard Collaborate (BBCU). 

We watched a video that explained how in-person learning would work. Some of the rules stated we aren’t allowed to talk in the hallways, we have to go straight to class, with no use of lockers (we have to carry around backpacks) and we always have to wear a mask (except for lunch). 

I had an hour of free time when Panther Time ended. If I was learning virtually at home I would do whatever I wanted, but since I was at school I couldn’t even go on my phone. I just sat there, bored with my thoughts, for the hour.

When lunch finally came I made my way to the cafeteria. I had to follow the arrows in the hallway, which will take some time getting used to. Even the lunch room, which is where I saw the most people today, felt very empty. There were rows of desks lined up six feet apart. 

When I had to do a group activity in breakout groups I had to wear headphones and talk quietly into the microphone (or just type in the chat.)

My legs were jelly when I finally stood up after my last class. I am not used to sitting that long. When I’m at home I walk around and stretch. The day was over before I knew it, and I was making my way back to the empty bus. 

Overall I could tell that the teachers and staff worked really hard so that the students could learn both in-person and online. That being said it will take some time for me to get used to the changes of in-person learning. The biggest class I had today was just me and another kid, and wearing a mask all day is tough. 

I wish I could say that going back to school today was amazing, but honestly it was difficult and felt unnatural and awkward. Some of the rules reminded me of when I was back in Elementary school. 

I still have hope that once I am more used to school this way it will be better. And the seventh-graders come back next week so the school will be less empty. Good luck to those who are going back in the building!