The fear of returning to “normal”

An empty hallway at Fanshawe College. CREDIT: HANNAH THEODORE
I’ve almost forgotten how the world felt before the pandemic.

Life’s just not the same as it was before the pandemic.

A generational event, the pandemic has changed our perspectives on many things, including work-life balance and online learning.

I’ve almost forgotten how the world felt before the pandemic. Most of my peers didn’t think about hygiene, and I only learned how to care for myself and my family properly when the pandemic began. Life also seemed faster, with no signs of slowing down. I vaguely recall how my days in high school felt like a blur while I was determined to be on the academic grind with no clear end goal in mind.

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I had a lot more time to reflect on my life in the early stages of the pandemic and there were a lot of challenges navigating school during that time. Despite those challenges, I have found a lot of benefits from an experience that was mostly agonizing but that still gave me greater freedom to focus on what mattered most to me.

I found online school to be a horrible experience at first. No one held me accountable for my work, and I felt no societal pressure to complete it. In high school, my school board mandated that our final marks could not be lower than our midterm marks, so there was no incentive to work on some of the classes I was already excelling in. Despite this demotivating factor, I was in a good friend group who helped me set goals for what I wanted to do after school so I wasn’t completely shut off from learning.

Fast-forward a year, I re-evaluated my interests through that aforementioned self-reflection and chose to drop Computer Science, deeming it to be a poor fit for my future. Sometimes I don’t understand why I chose it in the first place. As soon as restrictions were lifted, I switched to the media field and took a blended course load.

To my surprise, I actually preferred this form of blended classroom delivery much more than fully in-person or online delivery. Additionally, the pace of school felt much more manageable to me, perhaps because I’d become more open to new approaches to learning from the pandemic or because I had more time to process learning strategies in my room instead of using that time travelling.

Returning back to what once was normal, makes me scared. I am an introvert and the pandemic taught me how overstimulated I was before. I wasn’t great with crowds, attention, or large learning spaces before the shutdowns, so it was not hard to imagine how I’d feel once the old “normal” returned. I feel reluctant to accept the old normal, no matter how much I tried to before the pandemic. What was normal in schools before never gave me the confidence that these new experiences have given me. I just didn’t know the old normal wasn’t good for me until I went through an experience that actually benefited me. In other words, school pre-pandemic was like a toxic relationship and I was going through the motions, living through involuntary brain fog in that environment.

I hope the college realizes there are people like me and decides to implement flexible approaches to learning that accommodates those positive pandemic experiences, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone through this. Just because you signed up for an in-person program before the pandemic doesn’t mean you are raring to go back to that delivery. And I hope that anyone who wants to switch to a blended or online delivery for the rest of their programs can find some support to do so.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.