Friday the 13th — the very mention of the date is enough to give you the chills. And March 13, 2020 — the last day I attended school without a mask — happened to be a Friday, too.
I was in Sushila Birla Girls’ School and our Class XI results were just out. The rest of the school was enjoying a session break, while we were having extra classes. That Friday, some of us had planned to visit a nearby cafe for lunch. It was also our first
group outing after school. It turned out to be a fun-filled, click-crazy afternoon and we ended up making a lot of memories that day.
Back home, we sat down with our weekend assignments and preparations for the class tests coming up next week, little aware that the next day would bring some unexpected news.
The West Bengal government announced the closure of all educational institutions that Monday. Even then we could not have imagined that this break was going to be a long, long one.
Back to campus
We finally returned to school after 11 long months for our Class XII practical lessons and pre-board exams. We were all happy and excited to return but it all felt strange as well. We met some new teachers even as we had a slightly tough time recognising our old friends behind masks and face shields. We weren’t allowed to gather at one place during lunch break, which meant no sharing of tiffin, no canteen... my favourite place in school. We had teachers and other staff monitoring us so that we followed all COVID protocol. Everything seemed so different. Our section of 29 students was divided into two classrooms. Despite all the new rules, the sheer presence of other students gave us relief.
Students in the Chemistry laboratory for practical classes before Class XII examinations. Student
Attending practical classes
We had missed practicals for a year and a whole lot of work had piled up. Though our teachers tried their best to use different virtual platforms such as Olabs, YouTube and Google Jamboard to make up for the lab visits, when we finally had a chance to try things hands on it was all quite a mess. It was challenging for the teachers as well to pack all Class XII practicals into just two weeks. As a student of Science, I had practicals in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. We studied the theory portions but failed to complete circuits or identify the proper salt and made mistakes repeatedly.
We did get a lot of time for studies during online classes but somewhere I missed the charm of classroom lessons. A face-to-face lecture has a lot more impact. The last two weeks the teachers organised a few revision sessions and these were the most effective and fruitful learning for us. The small tests and assignments that we
wrote sitting in our classrooms, the answers that we gave raising our hands, the doubt-clearing sessions that took place offline helped to clear most of our piled-up doubts or misconceptions. The habit of sitting in a classroom environment and concentrating in a classroom was something that we had forgotten. Our board exams were supposed to be held offline and at that moment we wanted to regain normal classroom habits. We appeared for pre-board examinations in March and got a chance to practise the new question format and marking pattern of CBSE.
Getting back to the rhythm
Physical classes after such a long break turned out to be extremely tiring. Our habits and routines had changed and we struggled to keep pace. But the motivation we had lost gradually returned. Initially, we were a bit unhappy about
the school’s decision to hold classes on campus every day. However, now I feel that those were the best days from the last year of our school life.
We had never expected 15 years of school life to end like this. Last year in school is the time to make memories. Filling up farewell diaries, clicking pictures wearing the batch hoodies, dressing up on farewell day and watching juniors perform — we missed all that and more. Getting together as a batch was out of the question. We did not even get a chance to meet friends from the other streams. School life suddenly came to an end one fine evening when the board announced the cancellation of exams.