Starting at Kaipara College in the midst of the Pandemic

by Georgia Shivnan, Year 12 Student, Kaipara College

As the penultimate year of my time at Kaipara College draws to a close, I find myself thinking back to my experience of Year 9. The backpack crammed full of books and stationery. Many rich and diverse friendships. An end of year prize-giving. The exposure to a multitude of sporting and extracurricular activities. A profound connection to a community of people and a purpose that is far greater than myself.
But I also find myself thinking about the Year 9s of 2021 and their experiences. The 63 days of school that they have missed due to national and regional lockdowns. The six days that they spent at Kaipara College before the Auckland region went into its first lockdown of 2021.
The cancelled prize-givings, sporting events, and extracurricular activities. The sense of belonging to the Kaipara College community that some students have struggled to find due to such extensive disruptions.
On November 17th, less than four weeks before their final day of the year, our Year 9 and 10 students were able to return to site for the first time in 13 weeks. This new normal looks very different from what schooling was like before lockdown. Masks are worn by staff and students.
Social distancing and ventilation in classrooms is required. Students complete their on-line learning in a single classroom with supervision from their kaiarahi.
When I asked the students of class 9WEKA, they noted that this change came with both advantages and disadvantages. Students were happy to be able to reconnect with their friends and classmates face-to-face again and found that the classroom environment provided them with the sustained focus necessary to complete their remaining schoolwork. Many students also said that they found the transition from isolation to the comparatively busier classroom environment stressful, given the potential risk of transmission of the virus.
I also asked students whether they felt prepared to transition into Year 10 next year: socially, academically, and psychologically. While most students planned to continue their schooling at Kaipara College, some planned to move out of the region to other schools in the country and abroad. For these students, their peers will have had more in-class learning opportunities, increasing the difficulty of this transition for students. The overwhelming majority of students said that they felt unprepared in response to this question due to the setbacks and disruptions of lockdown, but were also confident in their own ability to make this transition.
When I spoke to our Year 9 students, I was expecting them to have viewed their year through a negative lens considering their perceived and overwhelming adversities. Instead, I was greeted by a group of students with unwavering positivity and evident adaptability towards their experiences this year and looking forward to their future. I came to learn that these students are resilient. Despite so many setbacks and uncertainties during this crucial year of their schooling lives, they have learned to take these challenges in their stride and achieve their own personal excellence nevertheless.

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