The process of going back to school has always been marked by a painful reevaluation of priorities. Each August, hours dedicated to baking, writing, and watching Netflix get handed over to math classes, club meetings, and 2 a.m. studies. For most of us, this reprioritization, however reluctant, is a natural part of existence and quickly dissolves into busy days and familiar routines.
But nothing about this year feels familiar.
The pandemic has given new meaning, new depth, to the concept of priorities. This is being felt more than ever, as we return to school. There is a new weight in the air that makes us reminisce on what it was like to breath freely. Maybe it’s the loss we’ve experienced in schools; or the sudden confinement; or maybe it’s the danger of the virus, itself. The past few months have forced us to take stock of who and what matters most. For me, that involved a recognition of how much meaning, joy, and affirmation I extract from the classroom experience. In realizing what I once had—the post-class discussions, seeing my classmates’ smiles, the security to hug my friends—I also felt what I’d lost.
This fall, though we’re all learning in different schools, in different forms, we have the chance to think deeply about the things in our lives that add the most value and commit to honoring them. Permanence allows for passivity and forgetfulness, but COVID-19 has reframed our experiences as temporary and demanding of intentionality.
This August, I think it’s important that we don’t accept reprioritization as a trivial, inconvenient transition. Instead be profound in how we choose to move forward. This applies to everyone, but as a seventeen-year-old, I see its significance most among those returning to school, both as students and as teachers. I think it’s worth relearning our values as individuals and making a point to outwardly and deliberately appreciate them.
This school year will likely be marked by unprecedented types of difficulty.
But your experience is your own. It is yours to take in and define. I will be spending every year now, holding onto tightly the voices of my teachers and peers. I will be noting the joyful creases around their eyes. We shall discuss new ideas, and strengthen our relationships that strengthen me. I urge everyone to think realistically about what you want the coming months to look like. Not necessarily where you’d like to go, or what you’d like to try, but rather what aspects of your life you value most. Find them, study them, and then never forget them.