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Out of a Crisis: The Voices of Our Students

A high school senior asks: How can I learn when the world is crumbling?

‘School isn’t like it used to be — nothing really is.’

Erin Roth

“Out of a Crisis: The Voices of Our Students” is a new series, launched by the Globe’s Great Divide team, that publishes student essays, poems, artwork, and videos featuring teenage perspectives on learning and living amid a pandemic. The stories are published in the Great Divide newsletter.

About the author: Tariq Charles, 18, is a senior at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. Listen to Charles read the poem:

Learning While The World Crumbles

I sit down at my computer in a barren room,

angry that I have to stare at Zoom.

Then I’m humbled by the news, as they say the illness continues to ravage communities everyday.


Nothing could make my mother less afraid to go to sleep.

In a bed that wasn’t her own and away from her home,

My mother was given oxygen and a TV remote.

Inside, those hospital walls were cold and lonely; that’s where she was.

Inside the walls of my own home felt dreary.

That’s where I was.

The whole situation felt phony;

My mirror reflects the tears in my eyes like “this can’t be real.”

So much going on, and I’m doing Algebra II.

How can I learn when the world is crumbling?

They say “Knowledge is power.”

The phrase used to make my eyes roll.

But if I went to science class,

Maybe then I’d know,

A cure for the infection that has stopped the world.

It’s sickening, to see a loved one inside of a section.

Cut off from the rest the world,

Like they are arrested.

I take that off my mind for a moment.

I’m sitting at a desk with a laptop,

Staring into an abyss of a blue screen.

My homework written down,

Then typed out.

The virus possesses the news it seems.


I scream silently.

Staring at an electronic pupil,

Trying not to fall asleep.

School isn’t like it used to be — nothing really is.

Six feet can really feel like a world’s distance.

This life is different.

But life is always twisting.

Pay attention to the wisdom.

I learn another lesson, and hope for the world’s ascension.

Now, another Zoom class that I didn’t want to mention.