Starting high school in a global pandemic


Photo courtesy of Lily Tapparo

Freshman Lily Tapparo faces the unfortunate reality of virtual school; reading books from home and taking classes from her bedroom. These challenges have had a significant effect on Tapparo, and all freshman who struggle to find their place in high school without ever stepping foot in the building.

High School. The infamous four years of learning, experimentation and excitement. For most, high school means football games, study sessions, fun lunches with friends and amazing memories. But for the class of 2024, this fantasy was put on pause. High school now means waking up five minutes before class, logging onto Zoom and just praying that the teacher doesn’t ask you to put your camera on. For the class of 2024, feeling like high schoolers has been a challenge, particularly because most have yet to step inside WJ’s doors.

While everybody’s experience with online learning has varied, most freshmen can agree that not being able to meet new people and make new friends — a process that most high schoolers experience their first year — has been tough.

“I have some great friends from middle school but I haven’t gotten the chance to really meet anyone outside of that. I have made new friends from football and other extracurriculars that I do, but meeting new people in classes has been almost impossible,” freshman Cal Topalian Davies said.

Socializing and making new friends hasn’t been the only challenge that freshmen are experiencing. Academically, many feel that they are not getting the full “high school experience.” “The academic aspect has definitely not been the same as what previous freshmen experienced and I think that getting used to the in-person workload next year and beyond is going to be really challenging,” freshman Dylan Notley said.

For those who are older than current freshmen, it is known that one of the main ways that students made new friends was through an in-class experience. But now with Zoom, making those same connections is infinitely harder, especially when people have their cameras off and are too shy to speak.

“It’s so weird. I’ve never actually attended an in-person class or met a Walter Johnson teacher in real life. I don’t feel like a middle schooler but I definitely don’t feel like a high schooler, it’s just been the strangest experience,” Notley said.

While online learning has been a challenge for a lot of high schoolers due to the lack of structure that often results in procrastination, freshman have been particularly affected because of how they have had to adjust to both online learning and the fast-faced highschool-level workload. As a result, time management and study habits have been overwhelmingly underdeveloped.

“I think I will need to learn how to study more because I haven’t been learning any techniques. Next year it will be hard to motivate myself and do my work to study for a big assignment,” freshman Lily Tapparo said.

Despite the hardships, freshmen have been incredibly resilient and have found ways to cope both academically and socially.

“My friends and I formed a study group for AP Government where we review concept cards before big quizzes and tests. We ask each other questions and play fun study games. It’s been a really great way of preparing for assessments while socializing,” Topalian Davies said.