Remembering Things As They Were: Why I Decided to Stay Virtual

A Reflection on One of the Toughest Decisions I’ve Ever Had to Make


Amy Rubin

Sarah Rubin and her brother, Daniel, do homework outside together.

I think there has been a global recognition over the past year that there are a lot of things in life that we take for granted. More specifically, I have found that the longer the pandemic continues, the more I realize that school was one crucial factor of our daily lives that I never appreciated more than when I was unable to go.

When I first learned that HCPSS had announced that we would be receiving the option to go back to school in late March, I immediately jumped to a resounding, “Yes! Of course I want to go back!” But after a few days of consideration, I realized that going back to school in person would be anything but the same beautiful monotony I had been missing in my months at home. 

When school was in person, you would go to the same classes, get homework, and see the same people each day – it easily became a comfortable routine. However, there is so much beauty in that. Beauty in the culture of the school, in the meaning of education, in the relationships formed. It is in the smaller moments within – singing with the choir, doing well on a test, being proud of an essay – that highlights the importance of being there. The Lake is beautiful in the way that it is both always and never the same. Going back would be a shell of that previous experience.

When I think about school, I think about boisterous hallways filled to the brim with teenagers preparing in their unique, individual ways for the day ahead. Teachers welcoming students outside their classrooms, their smiling faces greeting you in every direction.

As hybrid learning begins, that same building will become the antithesis of what it once was: people standing far apart from one another to safely social distance, and a muffled silence as you move from class to class. Many friends you once saw every day are now sitting in front of computer screens alone in their own homes, missing the camaraderie of their peers. Personally, I am terrified that if I returned to school, all of my memories thus far would be replaced with ones of surmounting worry and longing for all that I used to know. 

Besides this, I have a variety of other concerns. First, as someone who has always been rather anxious about getting sick, even the tiniest of coughs would immediately put me at unease; I couldn’t bear to go through my days scrutinizing all those around me, constantly wondering if they were deathly ill or merely suffering from seasonal allergies. 

Second, I know first hand that teenagers don’t always follow rules, and there are many who would not adhere to the mask and safety guidelines at any given opportunity. There are some who, out of ignorance, think that the virus won’t affect them simply because they are young and healthy. That is, up until the very moment they aren’t.

Third, one of my biggest fears that has remained consistent throughout the pandemic is the act of sitting inside to eat. I have not stepped foot into a restaurant since March; despite any statistics deeming indoor dining safe, a nagging voice has found a home in my brain listing off all of the worries that come with taking a mask off in a public place. Simply put, the cafeteria would be my nightmare.

Finally, there are some things that accompany the hybrid school experience that I think a lot of people aren’t yet aware of. Not only will constant hand sanitizer be a must, but wearing a mask for seven hours straight isn’t fun. As someone with a job, I know from experience just how uncomfortable a double layered mask can be when worn for more than just a few moments. At least in the work environment, I can ensure that everyone in the store is wearing a mask correctly, and can limit the amount of people in the store at once.

However, what really moved me to choose to stay virtual has nothing to do with safety. It has to do with a simple fact: In the hybrid environment, school won’t be the same. Band students won’t be able to play their instruments, choir students won’t be able to sing as a large group, you won’t be able to visit teachers before, during or after school, or even sit with a group of friends at lunch. The restraints are endless; while you’d be physically in the building, it won’t feel anything like actually being at school. Especially at Wilde Lake, where diversity, opportunity, and culture is so prevalent and appreciated, this will be an environment entirely devoid of all that we have always loved and treasured.

I do recognize that for some people, going back in person is a necessity. There are many who do not have adequate home environments suited for learning, who simply cannot focus when staring at a computer screen all day, or who just need to be around others instead of shut away in a room by themselves. For these people, I am beyond grateful that hybrid learning is an option.

When it comes down to it, I’m okay with staying at home with my mason jars full of colored pens, where I know I’m safe and comfortable. I am free to practice piano between classes and talk to my younger brother throughout the school day, which I had never been able to do until virtual learning became the new norm. Of course I miss when life was normal, how could I not? However, when I reflect on school in the near and far future, I don’t want to picture desks six feet apart, empty hallways, and my teachers and classmates masked behind plexiglass and face shields. I want to look back fondly on the memories I created when I could hug my friends, high five my teachers, and hang out on Main Street early in the mornings. 

As a senior, I will forever treasure the experiences I was able to have in my two and a half years in the Wilde Lake building before the Coronavirus took over. I will not take for granted any memory I was fortunate enough to make in the past four years; rather, I will remember the school with pride, and with a sense of immense dedication and devotion to its students and staff. I have been fortunate enough to have known incredible teachers, inspiring upperclassmen, and a welcoming community. While the final year and a half of my high school career might have been taken from me, I know I will never forget all of the memories I have made regardless of the fact. So, as I finish out the year virtually, I can only hope that this can all be resolved soon, and that Wilde Lake can return to the truly beautiful place that it is.