Grade 12 During the Pandemic

High school graduation is a big moment in life, and the end of the school year is often filled with big celebratory events like Grad Dinner and a ceremony involving hundreds of people – but that of course could not happen during COVID. The only Graduation celebrations included taking photos earlier in the year and the Valedictory ceremony at the beginning of June.

The Valedictory Ceremony is usually a lengthy event lasting three to four hours where everyone sits in a theatre and the grads are called up to walk across the stage and receive their diploma and awards. The ceremony still lasted for some four hours; however, because of COVID, grads went to the theatre in groups of 10 and everyone had a time slot assigned to them. This meant that I only needed to be present for one hour instead of five hours.

I was also permitted to bring two family members with me, so both my Mon and Dad came. During the ceremony, I had my photos taken, walked across the stage to receive my diploma and awards, and took more photos. My parents, my Education Assistant and the School Principal helped me get around as needed. The whole ceremony was videotaped for a viewing party at a later date.

In addition to the Graduation Ceremony being different, the whole school year was different. Because of contact tracing reasons, all high schools in my area ran on the quarter system instead of the semester or “linear” system. This meant that I would only take two courses at a time instead of the usual four or eight. Each quarter was approximately eight to ten weeks long so everything had to be condensed. As a result my classes would either be extremely intense or extremely chill and easy.

In the first quarter I had Law and Graduation Transitions / Capstone. For your information, the Capstone Project is basically an opportunity for graduating students to do a deep dive project into an area that really interests them and then they have to do a presentation on it to show their learning. Mine was a research paper on Web Accessibility. I had to do my capstone project in four weeks instead of the usual three to four months in a non COVID situation so that was a squeeze, but the rest of the Graduation Transitions class was easy. Law class was neither too intense nor chill, so it was a happy medium.

In quarter two I had math Pre-calculus 12 and Social Justice. Social Justice was a pretty chill class where I learned about human rights and other issues related to the welfare of society, and there were no quizzes or tests so it was relatively easy in that regard. However, Math 12 was a huge struggle for me. The pacing of the course was accelerated, which meant I had way less time to soak in the concepts. As a result I was constantly struggling to get good grades and felt stressed and burned out every day. What made the situation worse was that the teacher was also not as prepared to teach in this fast paced manner, the textbook did not have as many detailed explanations or practice questions as I would’ve liked, and my Braillist was constantly struggling to get notes to me on time. Every day I would try and study as much as I could, watch YouTube to figure things out and just try, but I was still not getting good marks.

When Christmas break rolled around, I was ecstatic. I was so burned out and stressed and I just needed a break, so I took full advantage of the two week break to keep my mind off of school stress and focus on musical activities. But when school started back up in January, I became even more worried and stressed. Math was more stressful than ever, and in mid to late January I had to write a research paper for Social Justice. It took hours of research and writing, and it was by far the largest paper I have ever written in high school. Life sucked. I was constantly crashing and burning and trying not to waste my time and stress. It was brutal.

After the Social Justice paper was done, I felt like I had more free time since all I needed to do was prep for the Math final exam. At that point I just felt like giving up and just passing the course because there was no way I could do well on the final since I hadn’t learned all the concepts properly so I just tried to relax and study for the final exam during the last week of quarter two.

After the math final exam my courses were significantly more relaxed. I had English and Cooking class in quarter three and History in quarter four, all of which were relatively easy and chill courses. I was going to take another class in quarter four but there was nothing else available that suited me. As a result I spent all my free time almost exclusively on music and passion projects. I didn’t take any sciences this year because there were none that interested me or suited me, plus I took two sciences in grade eleven. In retrospect, that was the best decision ever because if I took science this year I would be under the same intense stress that I faced in math and that would not be good for my mental health.

Usually the end of the school year is an intense time of stress and exams, but for me that was not the case this year. While some of my classmates had intense classes like Biology or Math in the last quarter of the school year, I was not one of those people. Quarter four was extremely chill for me. I had no quizzes or tests in history class, just easy assignments, and I had almost no homework so I just sat back and enjoyed the class. This meant that the end of this school year was extremely relaxed and laid back, unlike the usual stress I would endure with many final exams in a pre COVID situation.

To conclude, Grade 12 was truly an unusual year for me. While I faced periods of very intense stress and burn out, I also had extended periods of extreme ease. The only major grad celebration was the valedictory ceremony and because of COVID I didn’t have to be there for hours. Overall this year was very different but I did enjoy it despite the ups and downs.

by Ella