Education, Health & Wellness

Column: Back to school is not back to ‘normal’


In August it is nearly impossible to ignore the upcoming school year. Every store has mountains of brightly colored mechanical pencils and backpacks with every cartoon character imaginable that seem to shout, “BACK TO SCHOOL,” but the past 16 months have taught us that the traditional “going back to school” is not as reliable as the huge advertisements that convince kids that they need a whole new wardrobe every time September rolls around. 

I have always been a student who loved school. While summer is wonderful and I love to swim all day and sleep in until noon, I always longed for the early mornings and long bus rides to away games that came with the cooler weather. Back to school and the beginning of fall have always felt like a fresh start.

Looking to this fall, when masks will be required in many schools and many other things are up in the air, my mind instantly wants to compare it to the childlike joy I have alway felt leading up to the first day of classes.

This upcoming autumn feels like it will fall flat in comparison to the memories of gathering around the lunch table with classmates to recap our summers and crowding together on bustling bleachers for an assembly.

Then, I compare it to the first day of school last year, which consisted of sitting in front of a computer screen. Despite the change of scenery, I sat with all my brimming positivity and hope. My chest filled with the excitement that I always have gotten when I open the front doors of school for the first time in the fall. 

And then I couldn’t get into my first class. Technical difficulties had metaphorically locked the door that I was looking forward to opening. Finally I got into “class” (a Google meet) and realized that online school was nothing like normal school.

So going back to school in the fall, I think it is important that it is not compared to the ideal past that we all remember – getting on a crowded school bus and seeing people’s mouths when they talk – and instead think about going back to school in 2020 where isolated students sat in front of a laptop in their beds.

This perspective makes mandates and new regulations seem inconsequential if we are able to open those school doors and walk into a real building. 

Lydia Plahn is a Lowell resident and intern with The Chronicle.



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