The Rush to Return

The COVID-19 pandemic is slowing down, online school has been done for over a year, masks are not required anymore and things are supposedly finally returning to this “new normal.” But are they really?

It feels as if we are returning to a normal that no one knows. Even though we had complete in-person learning last year, there were still masks, contact tracing and social distancing, causing many traditions to become nonexistent.

Many students seem to have forgotten St. George’s traditions, missing out on them or just never wanting to take part in them,
forgetting what it was like to truly be a part of the community.

Coming back this year where teachers are strengthening their curriculum back to pre-COVID times is hard for students.

Because of online learning, we lost valuable teaching skills, and homework was relaxed. The teachers of St. George’s were urged to do this because of the transition back from online learning to the first “normal” year back.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, as quoted in a Daily Memphian article from August 3, 2021, “29% of students are on track or have mastered their grade level in English Language Arts. The figure for mathematics is even lower, with 26% of students on track.”

Still, there was very little St. George’s could do to strengthen learning. CDC regulations were so strict that students could not even gather for chapel together in the gym to worship together. Traditions, key aspects of our identity derived from an already young, developing campus, faded.

Traditions occur naturally, slowly over time, but due to a complete loss of activities during COVID, students were hastily trying to bring them back. Upperclassmen and faculty were desperate to bring back old traditions, and underclassmen were eager to participate in them.

As a result, life at St. George’s went from zero percent to 100 percent with absolutely no in-between. Houses, field trips and student-led clubs were simultaneously resurrected. It’s all happening at once — a flood of hustle and bustle instead of a slow stream of activity.

Schools are meant to develop organically, not suddenly devise events without time to consider whether or not the community is ready. The student body is ill-prepared for the sudden onslaught of new changes.

For example, the school held a Shelby Farms Retreat Day for the first time in school history. Instead of embracing the new opportunity with excitement, many students chose to leave early, checking out after lunch.

Over COVID, there was a loss of community. Learning was individual, and students felt alone. Coming back from this, it is hard to transition back into a full-school community. The load of new events and activities is hard for some students to adjust to, especially in such a minimal amount of time.

All of this feels like a monsoon of rain and wind suddenly falling onto students after a long period of clouded, still air. Without rain jackets, umbrellas or ponchos, students are confused, vulnerable and unprepared. They need to find a way to adapt – and fast.

Even though the school has good intentions of bringing back previous traditions and creating new ones, the surge of activities and clubs suddenly coming back into the public sphere is too overwhelming when we are still trying to recover from the shock of COVID.

Rushing to bring back traditions for students who just need a break is not going to accomplish anything. The administration is trying to give us everything we could possibly need when all we really want is to take a step back.

Sometimes, in such a chaotic time, it is important to pause and take a deep breath. Building back our community may take time, but it’s crucial not to overcompensate. We may not be Rome, but it doesn’t mean everything can come back in a day.