High school’s hardest year has become more challenging

Junior year is difficult enough with AP classes and SATs, so whose idea was it to mix in a pandemic?

When junior Sishir Katta sat down to choose his classes last year, he was as oblivious to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as anyone.

He knew junior year was the time to go all out, so he chose all five of his classes to be APs. Six months later, the ramifications of that choice are ones that nearly every junior can relate to.

Many would argue that junior year is the most important academic year of one’s pre-college career. Most students take their hardest classes and SATs, so getting and staying motivated is very important.

But procrastination is so much easier than being motivated, and online school only compounds that.

“For me personally, [online school] has been kind of challenging because the chances for procrastination are much greater,” junior Katrina O’Dell said.

Like many other juniors, O’Dell finds herself with more AP’s on her schedule than ever before.

With the pressure of taking more weighted classes during junior year also comes the significant increase in the overall amount of schoolwork.

“We’ve been getting more work this year with online school than last year for some reason,” junior Kiera Chapman said. “It just feels like there’s more that they’re giving us in a shorter amount of time.”

A common sentiment among juniors is that it’s difficult to learn online from someone whose technology capabilities are shaky at best.

“I would say the teaching quality was much better in person than it is online,” said Katta, who also believes that in-person teaching was more intuitive.  “Before, you had a much more hands-on experience.”

Being in the classroom doesn’t only make learning easier, but also gives students a chance to bond with teachers who they could prospectively ask letters of recommendation from to prepare for college applications senior year.

“One of my favorite parts of teaching is just developing a rapport with my classes,” AP United States History teacher Scott Hodges said. “It’s been more challenging to engage [this year].”

Another staple of junior year is standardized testing. O’Dell was planning on taking the SAT, but was unable to get an appointment before shelter in place started. Those who had appointments to take the SAT before COVID-19 had gotten their tests cancelled, and have struggled signing up for tests now that are remotely close to home.

“I was going to take it in December of this year,” Chapman said. “I’m thinking about putting it off until next year; especially since with COVID. Everyone’s [test] is getting cancelled.”

Arguably the worst part of it all is that juniors may not even get to partake in one of the most important events in high school – prom. To many students, unlike other high school dances, prom actually matters. It’s a night they will remember forever. That is, if they end up being able to attend.

Other opportunities for extracurriculars have been lost as well. Like many other juniors, O’Dell and Chapman were both supposed to get their driver’s licenses, and O’Dell was set to get her first job earlier this year.

Junior year is also an important year for sports, as for many people it is their first voyage into the world of varsity athletics. Some fall and winter athletes are being forced into tough decisions, since those seasons are being pushed to the spring. O’Dell, one of these athletes, was unable to play on the golf team this fall, and Chapman has had all four of the sports she plays affected.

Chapman was on the varsity swimming and girls wrestling team last year, cheered for Cal, and played rugby for the Danville Oaks.

“Sports were a big coping mechanism for me with stress,” Chapman said. “Now that I don’t have it, it’s more stressful.”

Both the swimming and wrestling seasons are scheduled during spring this year. This means that Chapman is going to have to face the dreaded decision of picking between two sports that would not normally be in the same season.

“I’m conflicted, because I really enjoy both,” Chapman said. “They’re both physically exhausting, but wrestling has a mental aspect to it too.”

It’s hard to prepare for something that might not even happen; unfortunately, Chapman is probably going to have to do just that. This will be her first year trying out for the varsity cheer team, and with the football season postponed to December, there is a chance that there will be nothing to cheer for.

Junior year is always a tough one, and online school only makes it tougher.

“Having a sense of normality stripped away from us –  it just puts a damper on how we live our lives right now,” O’Dell said.

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