Appreciating interaction

Sydney Fener

It’s just the truth. Being at school every day is tiring. Waking up early in the morning, driving in Los Angeles traffic, physically walking to different classrooms—it’s a lot to manage after a year of attending school through an online application on our computers. With full-time in-person school beginning for every grade level, it may be more difficult for us to face the rest of the year outside of the comfort of our beds.

But we need to remember how it felt to be back on campus for the first time. We need to remember that first lunch when we all sat with our friends and talked face-to-face, that first in-person meeting with our teachers and our surprise that they were not as tall as we thought they were, that feeling of being surrounded by laughter and chatter and learning. We simply cannot take in-person school for granted.

When I saw the announcement that school was closing last March, I ran to the quad and joined the dozens of other students enthusiastically cheering and hugging each other. This March, I did the same with my family members when I heard that classes were returning in person. Simple preparations were incredibly exciting to me: packing my backpack, scoping out the parking situation and preparing outfits. Soon, this will all become a dull routine, but the excitement about school should last far beyond the refreshing return to our everyday habits. We should be thrilled by the prospect of socialization, engaged learning and in-person connection for the rest of our high school experiences.

Coming back to campus gave me a jolt of energy after a year of exhaustion. I was surprised by just how engaging my classes were; despite my best efforts, I found myself zoning out in online classes. It is so much easier to pay attention on campus and so much more fulfilling to speak to a room of students instead of my computer screen. While being at school may be more physically draining, it is certainly more emotionally energizing. I am so grateful for all of the experiences the Upper School offers, and I want to maintain this gratitude when the novelty of the campus begins to wear off.

When we lose our frame of reference for in-person learning, it is important to remember that school is not just good in comparison to the boredom and loneliness of Zoom. Socialization may feel especially valuable after being deprived, but it is necessary to be grateful for this campus even when we have gotten used to it again. School provides an irreplaceable opportunity to learn alongside others. It allows me to learn from my fellow students in a more effective and engaging way.

Hearing an insightful comment from a Zoom meeting is very different from hearing it in real life. Seeing a presentation, a performance, or a guest speaker in person is a more rewarding opportunity. It feels less remote. It is easier to take in information. And best of all, I get to engage with the materials alongside my peers and discuss them afterward on the quad. The time I spend learning and socializing lasts the whole day, as opposed to being relegated to 75-minute blocks that end as abruptly as they start. Though the school did an excellent job of implementing online learning, there is simply no substitute for the on-campus experience.

As we transition back to full-time school, I want to remember not only how draining Zoom was but also how much of a gift it is to attend in-person school. Every day we get to spend surrounded by our closest friends and most beloved educators is a privilege. Though it was tiring, stressful and overwhelming, this past year has shown me that being at school is an irreplaceable joy that should not go unappreciated.