COVID-19 Student Diaries

Teachers Deb Tenenbaum and Mark Cutter had juniors in their 21st Century English Class at Gray-New Gloucester High School put together Quarantine Journals throughout the first two months of quarantine. Portions of these journals have been posted on their new website, 21st Century Quarantine Journals.

Following is a sample of reading in response to this assignment:

Assignment: Read the following three poems and write part of your 500-word journal entry responding to at least one of these poems. The remainder of your journal entry could be about anything – perhaps your thoughts about not having school the rest of the year, how your family is dealing with this, what you hope for next school year, your own poems, funny things about online school, or maybe a list of things that are actually good in your life right now.

  1. Instructions on Not Giving Up
  2. When Giving is All We Have
  3. Current

And the students’ responses:

  • This shows that during this time we can’t be selfish we need to think of everyone. Get what you need, don’t take too much, consider the people that also need it. I also thought of the people working at the hospitals because they are working so hard and they are at work for hours and hours. Consider them and give them help. Help them by staying inside and taking this seriously.
  • I could be a senior this year and miss out on graduation with my friends. I mean, I still could! It is scary to think, but what if COVID-19 doesn’t leave? Coronavirus could last only a year or two or more! Really all we can do is hope for people to listen to the recommendations and stay in and stay safe and clean.
  • It is always important to not give up, because any obstacle, small or large, can be overcome. To not give up, you just have to remain positive, calm, and strong. Eventually, everything will work out, everything does happen for a reason, nothing is random. This is the end of the 4th week of quarantine, and I think I am kind of getting the hang of it.
  • Giving is all that we have and we do need to give at this time. This poem talks about how we need to give back to the people who give to us. This is almost like us giving back to the healthcare workers and others who are giving to us every day. Giving back makes us feel better, so we need to do it more. Also, the poem tells us that we learn to give from those who taught us to give. It can be shown to anyone or it can not be seen at all.
  • The last few weeks have been really boring. I am getting tired of being around the house and being around my brother and my parents 24/7. Austin is being really annoying and I am getting bored of being stuck at my house all of the time and not being able to see any of my friends.
  • In the poem Instructions on “Not Giving Up” the “cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate sky of Spring rains” this is just like our epidemic where we are forced to stay inside because of the quarantine in place and we are just to sit here while winter goes and the beginning of spring comes, personally my favorite part of the year because I can watch as the grass turns back to its rich green color and you can watch as the last of the snow leaves.
  • I feel like sometimes, we don’t have much to give to others, but we do anyway. We do what we can for other people because they do what they can for us. Just like what the poem said, “We give because someone gave to us. We give because no one gave to us. We give because giving has changed us. We give because giving could have changed us.” We do these things because we care for one another. We don’t want anyone to be left behind, even if they haven’t done anything in return, we still give what we can to help one another. Sometimes we regret not giving when we could have given, and that’s why we give.
  • In my opinion, I don’t like how we are not going back to school because I won’t get a chance to do the SAT this school year. My hope for SATs is that I will get to do it at the beginning of the year and get the results back fast so we have time to do them again.
  • My reaction to the whole rest of the school year being online has honestly not immediately hit me yet, this all does not feel real to me. It is very upsetting though, it is very demotivating to not go to school. I have realized that being in a routine makes me more of an organized and mentally healthy person. Now this brings me to my next thought, how are we going to do SATs? And because I have not been receiving the normal in-class learning, will it affect my test scores?
  • I think that with the spread of Covid-19 many people are coming together to help. Giving during this time is crucial because so many people are in need.
  • Yesterday we got some bad news, my grandfathers test results came back positive for covid. It is really upsetting, but my grandmother is scheduling times where we can facetime him. So far he has been doing okay. He is on an oxygen machine but he hasn’t had a bad fever yet.
  • “A return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.” I feel like this line really expressed the meaning of overcoming something no matter how hard it is to. I also feel like people can relate the most out of this line. What we’re going through right now is nothing we would have expected. Although once it is all over it’ll just make us stronger coming out of it and we will appreciate things more.
  • I feel like I am reliving the same day over and over again. I hope that in the end we all learn something from this scary, sad, and heartbreaking experience.The only thing I’ve been able to look forward to is April break where I can take some time to pull myself back together to work hard for the 4th quarter. I’m glad that the school made some changes to the school week so we don’t feel as stressed as we have been. I am also glad that we won’t have to end the school year being at school where there is no air conditioning. I guess that’s one advantage of online school.
  • “Instructions on Not Giving Up” by Ada Limón was the poem I connected to the most. It was inspiring and made me feel warm inside with the talk of spring covering winter, that spring always comes despite our messes. It accepts every aspect of us, the good and the bad, and it lives even with our chaos. Today was a good day to read the poem because there’s currently a battle between winter and spring. Winter keeps trying to spread snow, but Spring won’t let Winter curse us anymore, it’s Spring’s time to shine, it’s April! I know that this poem is from 3 years ago, but it brings light to the pandemic, gives us hope, gives us faith that spring will bring good to everyone.
  • In the first poem I read, “Instructions on not giving up,”I didn’t really understand it too much. I thought it was super confusing to read and follow. I didn’t really understand what it was trying to say. In the second poem, “When Giving is All We Have,”I really liked this one because the author kept it simple and it was not hard to follow along and I could easily understand the message. I miss school and all of my friends a lot but I just hope this will end, which probably not soon. I just hope we will be put off this by the time summer comes because I need to get out and do stuff with my friends rather than my family, I’ve been in the house with them for a month straight. We’re all still adjusting, but we’ll all get through this. I hope you are doing well.
  • So anyway I usually get a tight low fade then taper the sideburn and neck with a little little bit off the top. But knowing my mom has no experience cutting hair whatsoever I decide to be a little more simple for the sake of my precious hair. I didn’t let her touch the top at all. So all she had to do was trim the sides. She didn’t do a bad job for never doing it before but the clippers had pieces of the guard missing so my neck got all cut and I started bleeding because of it. So, all in all, she didn’t do bad except for the part I am missing half of my left sideburn and the right one is 2 inches longer. But like I said not too bad for an inexperienced mom.
  • These poems are short and sweet, but when reading them they put a smile on your face because you think “hey I do that to”. Jason brings up talking to your friends and family only through the screens. It is sad not being able to see the faces of the people you love on a regular basis. Talking on the phone or on face time is not enough or nearly the same. I love how he brings up in many different poems about how we are trapped and it is like being in a dream we don’t want to be in because that couldn’t be more true right now.
  • I also heard a rumor that snow days are going to be done with and we’re just going to have online school instead. If that’s the case then I’m split 50/50. I love having snow days and being able to go up to the mountain and shred but at the same time I hate having to make those days up. So, to be honest I’d probably like the online school factor because I can still do it on my laptop or phone up at the mountain. I guess I didn’t really think that through until I started typing it.
  • I have hopes that we see the lack of a pandemic plan as a wakeup call for pre-crisis planning. If I’m being completely honest, the result of this may be new research on biowarfare, or something against the point. We seem to avoid hard issues, in order to remain in power, or regain lost power. We cannot react in this way this time. It isn’t about who calls the shots, it’s about who can call the right shots.

Gray Historical Society will be archiving many of the students’ journal entries as part of our COVID-19 Memories project. If you have photos, poems, stories, or other content to share as part of this effort, please contact us.