That happened in March. They told us on a Thursday, on the TV. I thought it would be an elongated Easter. Idiot.
I’m 15. This is the year of my GCSEs, at a state secondary. I don’t want an algorithm like a puppeteer, dictating a future I didn’t choose for me.
I’m in Year 11, and being in Year 11 this year appears to come with a list of everything we don’t know. Whether we’ll last the year at school, whether we’ll get a prom, take our tests, spend our 16th birthdays with our friends.
To continue, our school, like all others, has become fluent in the new language of risk. To "limit exposure" we’re in year-group "bubbles". We have two-hour lessons – a situation we’re told is necessary. I can’t concentrate for that long. Can you?
For "ventilation",all the windows are open (and we’re all shivering, tinged a hypothermic blue). To reduce "circulation", they’ve implemented a one-way system. I imagine our school is a beating heart: the corridors veins and arteries, valves to prevent backflow.
But there have been a few unexpected perks this year. During our absence, they’ve pimped up the science loos. Your chances of catching a water-borne disease have just decreased. Congratulations!
Everyone is trying their best. Everyone has people they want to protect. Teachers feel frightened and angry, confused and unimpressed. But they turn up, they teach us from their metre at the front of the class. Even if it’s awful – especially if it’s awful. That’s what resilience is.
My teachers are brilliant, with their interminable coffee and endless smiles. They answer our shouted questions from the back of the class, slightly marooned in their taped-out teacher zone. They’ve mastered all the technology going, endlessly innovating, down Google rabbit holes for all our obscure questions.
“Miss, there’s this word, and I don’t know what it is, but it sounds like 'hazardous', and it begins with 'a'.” *Looks expectantly*
And they do it all with patience and humour, despite the risks to themselves. Who better to teach the next generation than the brave, the kind, those who persevere?
Besides, it’s better to be at school than at home. Home learning is hell. I don’t want to go back – to only seeing friends through a screen, getting hysterical over PDFs; having endless, endless assignments that I don’t understand, copying down from PowerPoints and teaching myself what I’ve never learned.
So our year go to school, moaning about our sleep deprivation, and the low-level sadism of education (we’re joking. Mostly). We still have no concept of pragmatism, still have a healthy sense of pessimism.
We eat our lunch in our allocated half-hour break, sandwiches tasting bitter from all the applications of sanitiser, and talk about our futures. This is the age of uncertainty.
We’re doing careers, but we don’t know what the future will be. If I’m honest, that’s scary. But so is life.
I’ve embroidered the old showbusiness adage “The show must go on” on to my school bag, to remind myself: it will get better.
For now, we’ll take cheap laughs, smile behind our masks, use all the sanitiser going. For now, let’s just keep going.
Mei Kawagoe is a Year 11 student in the East Midlands