The Alabama Education Lab spoke to students from across the state about their experiences in the 2020-21 year. To see more essays and first-person stories posted throughout the week, head over to here.
Jarrett Davis graduated from WP Davidson High School in Mobile. In the fall, he will go to Alabama A&M University.
Q: Was there a specific classroom activity or lesson that inspired you this year?
A: My acting class helped me stay positive and active while studying at home. Learning about body language and how our movements affect our emotions has helped me maintain consistently positive body language. It didn’t have a huge impact, but the acting strategies we learned have helped me improve my daily mood to some extent.
Q: Did you bond with a teacher, classmate, family member in a new way?
I bonded with some of my teachers because I was one of the few students who wanted to turn on my camera for class, but mostly I got closer to my classmates who wanted to keep good grades. With everything that has happened this year, many students have stopped actively participating in class and have done the bare minimum to be successful. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to be like the other students, but this struggle brought me closer to the students who persevered too. This allowed us to help each other and to bond with the problems we had.
Q: Did you overcome a particular challenge? If so, what was the challenge, how did you overcome it and what helped you persevere?
The biggest challenge was fighting the urge to do the bare minimum to be successful. Seniority played a small role in this, but with everything that has happened over the past year, the main problem I had was finding a balance between schoolwork and the problems of the world. real that we were facing. I believe there are much bigger issues that need to be discussed and understood instead of focusing all my attention on school. I was technically enrolled in six AP classes, so balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities and dealing with the chaotic state of the nation was no easy task. I ended up focusing only on three of the AP exams and had to realize that I couldn’t do everything and needed to calm down. Seeing other students who persevered helped me encourage myself as I could too. There weren’t that many of us, but each person who persevered made it a little easier.
Q: What were some of the real world challenges and issues you faced?
A: My specific difficulties with COVID were mainly not being able to go anywhere in a fun way. I rarely had time to go out and do something, but when I had the time there was nowhere to go, so I just talked to friends while playing video games. I was on Davidson’s college basketball team, but after I think three games, two of us, including me, got COVID-19 and we had to quarantine. One of those two weeks of quarantine was Thanksgiving week, so I missed that moment with my family.
My brother had just returned from college a few days before we found out my dad and I had COVID. I felt like I was dealing with my typical seasonal allergies, so I didn’t know I had COVID, but my dad was bedridden for two or three days during that Thanksgiving week. Another problem we had was trying to find the materials and drugs for cleaning and COVID protection.
Since I was in AP US Government and Politics, the election was a common topic. Our teacher was at a loss for words after the events of January 6 of this year. He’s normally sarcastic and humorous about politics, so seeing him so shocked and upset showed us just how serious the matter was. I had pretty strong opinions about the candidates, but seeing the nation so divided and realizing how easy it is for people to hate each other was an eye-opening experience. Racial attacks were what affected me the most. I believe racial injustices happen all the time, but with everyone at home and less to do, the news has spread faster and further. Watching videos of people killed by the police and learning about the events leading up to their deaths takes a lot of mental toughness. Several times I had to take a break from social media just to avoid seeing someone else die. I don’t think it’s emphasized enough that racial injustice wasn’t just the police killings. There are countless videos from this year of an Asian person being attacked because of COVID or of people branded as racially insulted by a random person passing by. It was all very revealing and a reminder that the nation we live in is far from perfect. I still believe America is a great country, but I’m glad people show who they really are. I’d rather everyone be real and flawed than everyone be fake and pretend to be on the other’s side.
Q: What is one of your future goals, dreams or aspirations? What have you learned over the past year that could help you reach your goal?
A: One of my future goals is to be a speaker. English was never my favorite subject, but I started to enjoy hearing slam poetry and motivational speakers. Taking drama and advanced English classes helped me deepen my understanding of poetry, body language and its importance in communicating something to an audience. The year has also provided everyone with similar experiences, so this year will always be a point of reference when I want to reach people of my generation.
Q: What have you learned about yourself in the past year? Was there anything you did or experienced that you think has helped you become a better or stronger person?
A: One thing I have learned about myself is how I act when I have been at my mental limit for an extended period. There have been all kinds of experiences that I think have made me better, and I don’t even know where I would even start to list them, but having to manage my AP classes, my extracurricular activities and trying to keep up with that. happening in America caused me to reach a level of mental stress that I had only experienced in small spurts at a time. It made me mentally exhausted and I started to realize the importance of focusing on my mental health first and foremost.
To learn more about the Alabama Education Lab, subscribe to his newsletter, Ed Chat. To submit your own first-person essay on an experience with Alabama schools, contact editor Ruth Serven Smith at [email protected] to know more.