“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: Jacob Ortiz Rosario, 17, is a junior at Opportunity Academy.
Now — and Then
I can imagine the old me,
in ELA class, the rows of tables the color of sand separated by space,
my knees stretching out in front of me to avoid the metal bar,
not sitting straight straight.
The other students perched on the radiators against the wall of windows.
Now it’s me sitting on my bed,
waiting for the Zoom class to start
Surrounded by my TV, my games, my closet and the desk where I sometimes sit.
But I can imagine the walls of each class and the hallways,
all the students walking through them.
My math class would be smarter with all the equations and tables it hears.
But now the classroom is empty, hearing only silence.
I remember teachers encouraging every student to learn.
Now, the only way they interact is through a screen.
The hallways were angry with all cusses they hear,
The misuses of these precious items called words.
But now the hallways are filled with the sounds of the old plastic, squeaky, janitors’ cart.
The dirty floors of my lunchroom were always eager to
catch crumbs of the cheesy, crunchy, crusted pizza.
But now, they are hungry for the loud tables, full of messy students
The pool was excited by the crowds of swimming students.
Now, it is still, motionless water, sick with the smell of chlorine.
The lockers, once full of ideas with all the books stuffed inside them,
are now just full of memories.
The floors of the hallway would be scared with all the stomping and running,
Students flooding the halls.
Now, the hallways see only a lonely janitor.
The chairs of my principal’s office used to hold all the excuses offered by students who lied when they felt they needed to.
But now, all they hold are lonely, peaceful thoughts.
The doors to the outside would take in freedom and relief and let go of all the judging and anxiety, released when they were opened at the end of the day.
The anxious air trapped inside was joyful and free when finally escaping that place
full of emotions and questions.
Now, it’s only teachers inside, teaching to empty rooms,
wondering if their students are still working on the other side of Zoom.
No more bored students in the classrooms,
Now unmotivated students at home.