On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Goldendale High School shut its doors as the statewide “stay at home order” was put into effect. When the school shut its doors, many of my classmates, me included, thought the school shutdown would just be an extra two weeks on our usual spring break. I mean, who wouldn’t want an extra two-week vacation? Little did we know that we would not be returning to our classrooms until later in the next school year. Covid-19 hit everyone hard, especially students of all ages, whether they were in first grade or in college. Everyone dealt differently with the change in their curriculum. I watched my classmates struggle, and I wasn’t the exception.

The school year of 2020-2021 started off fully remote. We were unsure whether or not students would be able to sit in the classrooms and see our teachers face-to-face this year. As a student graduating in the class of 2021, that thought alone was honestly very discouraging. My class didn’t get to have any part of our senior year that was normal like the year before us. A majority of this year felt extremely rushed and strained. My classmates and I didn’t get our senior year sports or activities.

I was hit especially hard by the fact that it seemed all extracurricular activities were going to be moved into only a few months. I didn’t get to participate in a majority of the activities that helped me break out of my shell in high school. It honestly kinda hurts when I am told that this school year doesn’t matter and it’s “only a small part of your life.” I understand that life goes on, but when someone says anything in that manner, I don’t think they understand the mental and emotional strain that all students are going through, and have gone through, during the pandemic. I didn’t get a chance to participate in competition for the bands I am in. We didn’t get to play in the pep band more than a few times. Band has been one of my longest commitments; I have been playing in this school district’s music program since fifth grade. I didn’t get a chance to make any of the memories and bond with the students I played with in the band. It’s hard to not be affected by the situation I’m in.

This school year has taken a lot out of me. It’s hard to continue like everything is normal when all you felt in the beginning was crushing disappointment. I still feel extremely disappointed, but I am grateful to those in the school or those who worked with them who have been trying to make the senior class’s year as close to normal as we get.

I would say that I am a good student, participating in school activities, maintaining good grades, taking part in community service events, the whole package deal. Despite this I, like many of my classmates and students across the country, struggled with schooling. The challenges of understanding schoolwork and any issues that came with that are obvious to anyone on the outside looking at their students, but our mental and emotional health were never brought into question. Students have certain expectations put on them by their parents and loved ones in a normal school setting. These expectations can already be stressful to a student during a normal year, but these expectations didn’t change during the pandemic. I was expected to maintain my grades despite having to teach myself. Videos and written instructions only go so far to help you understand a subject. When you have this pressure put on you, and you’re already trying your hardest to understand things and live up to these expectations, you eventually feel like you aren’t doing enough. Letting down those who held you to a certain standard is never a good feeling. Throughout the pandemic, I have felt like I am constantly letting down the people who want what is best for me. There’s a point where you stop trying to explain that you’re trying and struggling when you are consistently dismissed as being apathetic or lazy. Mental and emotional health seem like it is never brought up when considering youth, or at least it feels like that. It feels like our emotions have been overlooked and dismissed throughout the last year we have been dealing with the Covid-19 virus. Students have struggled to get out of bed in the morning because we feel we’re not doing enough and letting everyone down.

Whenever students have brought up how we feel let down about not having the opportunity to participate in the activities and socialize with friends, they are often shot down and told they are being “overdramatic.” I can’t count the times I’ve been told this school year wasn’t “that bad” by someone who got a normal senior year. It was hard to find the motivation to do my schoolwork at home, not because I’m a bad student or lazy, but because it was genuinely emotionally taxing. It was draining to continue as if I wasn’t affected. I hit a low point during this school year, and I started to think that my emotions and my struggles were me being lazy, just as I was being told. It wasn’t until about five months ago that I was able to pull myself out of my low point when I realized that the reason behind what I was feeling was because I started to let others define me, and how I have processed everything that has happened with the pandemic, which consistently caused me more grief. Students are struggling. We haven’t given up, but without support, it only makes it harder. We’re burnt out and tired. Consider what it would be like to have everything you understand about school and learning suddenly shift.

Your students aren’t lazy; they are dealing with a lot. Listen to them when they try to explain why they aren’t doing as well and the feelings that come with that, acknowledge that what we are going through isn’t easy. It isn’t as simple as, “It’s a small portion of our lives.” This is our present; ignoring what we have gone through and are going through doesn’t do anything except make it worse. Support your children; dismissing our experience creates a sense that you don’t care. You can’t discredit someone’s mental and emotional health; it can cause more issues on top of the ones students have to deal with on a daily basis. You can’t expect us to do it all without issue. We are trying our hardest to navigate through multiple obstacles at once. Be patient with us.