Yokosuka student, friends and teachers adjusting to new normal

Yokosuka student, friends and teachers adjusting to new normal

by Reese Dimmitt
Yokosuka Middle School 6th Grader

Editor’s Note: At Stripes Japan, we love to share your stories and share this space with our community members. Below is something written by a student from Yokosuka Middle School. If you have a story or photos to share, send them to japan@stripes.com.

Quarantine! COVID-19! Pandemic! Social Distancing! Mask! 2020! By now, we have all been used to these terms. For several months now, we have allowed these terms to infiltrate our lives. Coronavirus is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered virus. News and every social media outlet provide updates daily. COVID-19 has become part of us. Its many terms have become our hashtags, our jokes, our memes, our misery, our anger, our disappointment and so much more. As a middle-schooler, in fact, just as any other student in the world, I have been deeply affected by COVID-19. Believe it or not, we are now part of history. Years from now, we will be quoted, researched, documented and talked about. But, what is all this about? Let’s dig out the good, the bad and the ugly.

Year 2020— a year previous generations imagined would include a perfect world with impressive technology, cures to all diseases and cool innovations. Come on now! Even movies about the future had us believe that 2020 would be one of the coolest years ever. Instead, here we are living in a world where the latest fashion trends are about your pandemic mask. I will admit that there are some patterns out there that are definitely cool. Taking time to match your mask to your daily outfit(s) becomes a normal routine task. Playing “Guess who is behind the mask?” while you are out running errands becomes a game you get excited to play. This is definitely not how I pictured my life in 2020 but yet, here I am, doing just that.

With our school having no other choice but to go virtual, we have had to adjust how we learn, forgoing the way of traditional learning. I miss my friends, I miss my teachers, and I miss my school activities. I miss the human interaction that we all took for granted, which is the reason I decided to write about it. I went ahead and interviewed some friends and teachers all while maintaining social distancing.

We have had to make a big change in our life this year. It was not just a gradual change with gradual steps. Instead, it was a big leap to make a slow difference. One day, we are all living our busy lives and the next day, the buildings are vacant and the roads are empty. Life came to a standstill. So, my first question was “How have you kept in touch with friends and family during quarantine?” The reaction I got from every single person was the are-you-kidding-me chuckle. I bet you did just that after you read that last sentence. Mrs. Vinson, 6th grade science teacher at Yokosuka Middle School, said she has been keeping up with everyone via Zoom, texting, Google Meets and phone calls. Google Meet, which is a popular tool for schools, also has Hangout options which make chatting and keeping in touch very easy. Tammy K, a 6th grade student, loves Google Hangouts as it allows her to text her friends and family any time and is another way to get by the day.

However, one can only be on the computer for so long before boredom sets in. Staying busy and maintaining that becomes quite the challenge. Mrs. Stonebarger, a technology educator at Yokosuka Middle School, said she believes keeping the brain active helps and for that she makes getting physical exercise a must. She has been walking, stair climbing and even does her own weightlifting routine.

Elliana M, a 6th grade student, enjoys being competitive with her family. They each have a Fitbit watch and challenge each other to see who will have the most steps at the end of the day.  Not a bad idea! A few friends shared their responses anonymously. They all share their love for video games and they even team up online to play against each other.

Trying to stay busy is one thing but trying to stay happy? That is even harder than trying to stay busy, don’t you think so? Think about it for a moment. Many of us, including myself, have made commitments to do things we never did before. But happiness is a state of mental wellbeing that takes work. How does one know they are happy during this quarantine? Let’s find out! For Andy D, a 3rd grader at Sullivans Elementary School, staying happy is a bit hard but he said his friends and family help make sure he is happy. Mrs. Gallo, 6th grade teacher, said she is thankful that she is able to work because it makes her happy. Aww! We, students, should not pinch our teachers’ nerves. Lesson learned. LOL! Something interesting that also keeps Mrs. Gallo happy is playing Zelda, something she has been doing for years. Mrs. Hertz, our cheerful librarian at YMS, finds her happiness in books. She finds her inner bliss when she reads to others. After all, books do take us on mysterious and fun adventures. Another friend said McDonald’s meals make him happy. Good old McDonald’s Happy Meals! Another teacher at YMS relies on a positive attitude to keep him happy. What a wonderful idea! There are so many ways to keep happy.

My favorite part of this interview is asking what people would want to do after the quarantine. Andy D was quick to say he wants to travel and visit places. A few others would love to eat at a restaurant and enjoy cooking outside their homes. That’s funny because I’m sure many of you can relate. I know I want to go back to exploring Japan. However, some responses touched my heart when they expressed how badly they wanted to go back home or see family. We are all living far away from our close families and we all look forward to summer to go visit. COVID-19 made traveling to see our families difficult and for many, an impossibility for this year. But hey, aren’t we all resilient? The military community is resilient and know that it will all be worth it at the end.

The world has been affected by COVID-19. We have been in quarantine for over two months and it’s taking a toll. When we call, text, Zoom and Google Meet our close friends and families far away, we ask about each other’s wellbeing. When I asked my friends about this, many had deep thoughts and serious frowns. Mrs. Vinson is worried about her mother who has not left the house at all during this ordeal. The uncertainty lingers around for a really long time. Mrs. Stonebarger wishes for everyone to follow the rules and hopes for the best.

I believe that everything happens when it needs to happen. COVID-19 happened now and not in the early 2000’s. We are living in a pandemic with the ability to still function. We have the tools and technology to keep going. Whether it be school or work, we have faced a challenge that prepared all of us to still do our daily activities. We’ve all been documented in history. We have all been made famous in an unusual way. With all that, I hope that everyone follows the rules and makes a positive (pun!) difference in the world.

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