Semester One: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Ella Szalay

After a whole year of learning at home, I found my way back into the halls of Shaker Heights High School this past August for the start of my junior year. Now, here I am, four-ish months later, and I’ve official made it through my first in-person semester of high school since I was freshman. And my goodness, what a semester it’s been. I can’t really think of a good word to describe it because I have several mixed feelings about it. Instead, maybe it’d be easier to reflect on this semester by recalling some of the good, the bad, and the ugly parts.

The good:

  1. Of course, the Shaker Writing Center. Every odd day, when I remember that I have the writing center that day, my day instantly gets better. My confidence in my writing has continued to get better this year, as it did last year thanks to the people who I work with in conferences.
  2. Cyrano de Bergerac. I missed performing live on stage so much during the pandemic, and the cast of Shaker’s fall production of Cyrano made my first live show since COVID hit back in 2020 so memorable. Despite the fact that I cooked alive in my floor-length dress, performing in school for my grade was so fun. I’ve never been able to go to the in-school previews of the fall play, and I’m so glad that the first time I did, I got shoved off stage with a bunch of pastries and poetry in hand while my English class sat front and center.
  3. Marching band. Because I am an upperclassmen, and also because we didn’t have a season last year, it was partially on me to help not just the freshman, but also the sophomores learn how to march this season. They learned very quickly and made this fall’s season so exciting. Can’t wait for the next one (especially since my younger brother will be joining the band as a freshman next year)!

The bad:

  1. Readjusting. Going back to in-person school after a year of online is easier said than done. I had a hard time paying attention to a Google Meet last year (especially with the long periods), so I often made friendship bracelets or colored in a coloring book while listening to my teachers online to help prevent myself from going crazy. Unfortunately, I can’t do that during in-person classes, so relearning how to pay attention in class has been a struggle, and I’m still not quite there.
  2. Even days. My odd day schedules are so nice, but that also comes at the cost of my even day schedule. While my odd days have band, stagecraft, writing center, and Asian studies, that means I have all my most stressful classes jammed into one day. My even schedule goes from pre-AP German to English, pre-calculus, and astronomy. I don’t really dislike these classes, but having all of them on the same day is extremely overwhelming at times.
  3. Migraines. I haven’t had many this school year, but the big one I had was terrible. It was the end of October, and I got what was easily the worst migraine I’ve ever had. It lasted three days (Wednesday-Friday of that week), and the worst part about the whole thing was that I really should’ve gone home and rested, but I didn’t because I was scared of missing too much work. If there’s one thing I learned from that time, it’s that I shouldn’t do that.

And lastly, the ugly:

  1. The fire alarms. I think we can all agree that being in and out of the building four times in one day gets exhausting after a few weeks. Picking up all my stuff knowing that there’s no actual fire in the building and someone just really wants to get out of class (and for some reason, it was always during my favorite classes) got old very fast. Thankfully, we seem to have moved past this era, and now we’re all experts at evacuating the building in case of a real fire.
  2. The PSAT. I didn’t plan on taking the PSAT this October, but it seemed the school had other plans. Personally, I didn’t care much about how I did, but I wanted to at least see how I did since I went through the effort of taking it. However, the day they were meant to come out, no one in Shaker could see their scores. As of now, they are still unavailable. To me, this is just a minor inconvenience, but to others, not having their scores has been extremely stressful.
  3. And of course, COVID. I’m currently writing this on December 17, the last day of the semester, from my desk at home because of the seventy-four new cases of COVID in the high school alone. Seventy. Four. My eighth-grade brother and I decided to stay home today out of concern for our safety, and I know many other students and parents had the same idea.

All that said, my first semester of junior year was crazy, both in a good and bad way. I’m sure many other students feel the same about this semester, and I’m hoping that next semester starts feeling more natural, like how everything felt before the pandemic.

2 thoughts on “Semester One: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Ella Szalay

  1. From my mid-January p.o.v., this was like a little trip down (recent) memory lane. I smiled to see that Writing Center made your “good” list, and nodded in agreement with some of the bad. Thank goodness the fire alarm situation seems to have resolved, especially now that winter temps have hit!

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