The World is on Fire, Give us a Break

For the last 11 months, I’ve watched the number of COVID cases skyrocket. I’ve watched as this virus takes lives — lives of people I may have passed on the street or sat by on the train; people who may have sold me coffee or waited behind me in line at Target. I’ve been constantly worried that someone I love may get the virus and not recover.

Then on Wednesday, Jan. 6, I spent the day trying to focus on studying while a mob of white supremacists broke into the Capitol building. As it turns out, it wasn’t easy to focus on my Spanish homework while my social media feed was taken over by images of terrorists seizing the seat of power in a riot incited by the former president. As hard as I tried to look away, I couldn’t.

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, I was in my government class when I got a notification on my phone that the U.S. had surpassed 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus. As much as this news stirred me, I was forced to ignore it and continue listening to the lecture. If I fall behind in class, it’s my responsibility to make it up — and no matter what, the work must get done. 

While I worry about all of that, I’m still expected to turn in all my homework on time. And I’m expected to keep up my grades and work as if life is normal. How can I be expected to brush that off and prioritize school work? 

This year in AP classes, we’re expected to absorb the same amount of information at the level we would in a normal year. As of now, AP tests will be normal, and we’ll be tested on all of the information that is covered in a typical year. How can we possibly learn the same amount of information when our usual 135 hours (roughly) spent in the classroom is being cut down to only about 117, mostly via Zoom? In our current hybrid model, that’s nearly six less weeks spent in a class. How can we be expected to understand the content as well as before?  

I know we can’t just stop doing school, and I understand the value of having a way to distract myself from the horrors of the world. But I’m constantly finding myself having to pick between allowing myself time to process life-altering events and keeping up my grades. And it always feels like I have to prioritize school, so I do. 

I bury my feelings and let my emotions pile up. I’m sick of constantly having to choose school over my own well-being. I deserve time to process. I deserve to be able to acknowledge all that’s going on without being terrified that it’ll cause my GPA to plummet.

Libertyville is a great school, I know that. I’m used to the high expectations, and I’m used to staying up late every night doing homework. But right now, what my peers and I need is leniency. What we need is for teachers and administration to understand that these circumstances are nowhere near normal and that it’s absolutely insane to expect that we can perform at the same high level as before. 

I’ve found that it’s really important to remind myself that my worth is not measured by my productivity. And if you take nothing else away from this, I want you to remember that — you are worth more than the work you produce. 

As a school, we need to reframe our mindset and worry less about whether or not an assignment was turned in on time. We need to worry less about busywork and making sure students always have something school-related to do. 

Now more than ever, we deserve a break. We deserve to take care of our mental health. We deserve to take in everything that’s going on in our country and our world without the looming fear of falling behind in classes. The world is on fire, give us a break.