‘World of chaos’: Students look back on Covid-19
MATTAPOISETT — Third-grade student John Rousseau had just finished gym class at Center School in Mattapoisett when his teacher Chad Cabeceiras gathered the class in a circle. Normally, they talk about the game they just played but on Friday, March 13, 2020, the conversation was different.
“The first time I heard the news that we would be leaving school early was in that usual circle after gym,” wrote Rousseau, now a sixth-grade student at Old Hammondtown Elementary School. “This circle was very different. [Cabeceiras] explained to us that we would be leaving school early that day. All of us were very excited because we were third graders, and to us that sounded great. We all went home early that Friday. But little did we know that half day would turn into two weeks.”
As Rousseau and his classmates would recall, those two weeks turned into months.
Sixth-grade students at Old Hammondtown Elementary School reflected on the past three years of the Covid-19 Pandemic in a project led by social studies teacher Laura Mirabito. She prompted them to look back on their lives and recount the events and emotions that they experienced throughout the pandemic.
According to Mirabito, this project evolved naturally through classroom conversation.
“In sixth grade, we teach a lot of ancient history and we were talking about the characteristics of civilization and relating them to the current day,” said Mirabito. “And then we started talking about how Covid-19 affected all of the aspects of a civilization.”
Mirabito’s students began sharing their experiences about the past three years of Covid-19 when she told them that they “lived through a time in history that is going to be in the history books one day,” and that they should compile their experiences in a memoir.
“On March 13, that fateful day, they were in third grade,” said Mirabito. “These are their formative years.”
Mirabito reached out to Mattapoisett Museum Director Jessica DeCicco-Carey with a binder of memoirs written by her students to submit to the museum’s archives. In return, DeCicco-Carey shared materials from Mattapoisett’s past including diary entries written by Mattapoisett residents chronicling the 1918 Spanish Flu in Mattapoisett.
“Everything that we do in sixth grade social studies is all about archeology and primary documents and piecing together what life was like,” said Mirabito. “And what they have done is they have given the future people of Mattapoisett a chance to see what life was like in Mattapoisett schools during Covid-19.”
Rousseau’s experience is only that of one student. According to Mirabito, her students’ memoirs are a “subset of the world,” putting a spotlight on how different kids in different families navigated the pandemic.
“The main commonality was that these kids really missed school and they missed their friends and they missed the routine. They recognized that they liked [school],” she said. “I think that kids have a better appreciation for school now, I really do.”
The following are excerpts from Rousseau’s memoir that capture, in his own words, the feelings of a child living through the Covid-19 Pandemic in Mattapoisett.
A two week vacation?
I remember that phone call my mom got. It was from the school and it said, "we will be having a two-week break."
I was so excited. The first couple of days went by, and I almost started to miss school. That was unusual because I really did not like third grade.
During the weeks my sister and I got a little closer. But it would be the type of play where we would be best friends for an hour but then we would start arguing. That was pretty much how those two weeks went, no friends, just my sister.
As soon as word got out that it was a virus EVERYONE went crazy. It was like people thought it was the end of the world. With the information we were working with, that is what it sounded like.
Since it was like the world was going to end, a lot of people thought it would be a good idea to stock up on essential things. People stocked up on food and also on other things like toilet paper. That made it so whenever you went into a store the section for toilet paper would be EMPTY.
One side of my family was VERY, VERY, anti-mask/Covid. The other side was all for it. The side that was anti-Covid was my dad. The other side is my mom.
Now I think that my dad hated the whole thing, but on the other hand it was like my mom wanted me in a bubble forever. They had very different ideas about Covid. My dad was working extra long hours at UPS. My mom was working from home late at night and helping me with my school work during the day. It was a stressful time.
It was beginning to be really hard to find entertainment. Usually I would be super excited to watch TV or play video games, but now that was all boring.
We couldn’t play outside, and my favorite thing to do was go outside and play sports with my two neighborhood friends that I was very close with. We would spend hours playing basketball and football. That was all I loved. But then that all went away and TV got boring. I had no idea what to do.
Along with that I was super stressed about Covid. I had no idea what was really going on. I had a guess but other than that it did not make sense.
What is going on in the world of chaos?
Everyone is very frantic to protect themselves from Covid. Masks are a very big part of Covid. The idea of the mask is that less air can get in. That will make it less likely for the air with Covid in it to get into your mouth.
We are still not allowed to get together with any friends, so I am not able to see them. Zoom has been a big part of Covid and it is basically a place to just talk and see people on the computer. I think Zoom was made before Covid but no one really needed it. But now almost all jobs cannot be done at the office so they can use Zoom to hold meetings. The main thing I use it for is to talk with my friends and connect with school.
Zoom. Online school was very difficult at times. It was pretty stressful getting everything done. My mom was a HUGE help because she would make a schedule that I could follow every day. She also bought me a computer monitor, so I would not have to look down at the tiny chrome book all day.
My dad was never home because he was one of the only jobs that still had to work. He was a package delivery driver. He probably wouldn’t have wanted to help with online school anyway.
It took a lot of self control to get all the work done and not just play in my house. The worst part was the stress it caused me. It was hard to get everything done and follow the schedule.
School's out for summer
School ended early that year of 2020, and it was great, at the time.
The time off was very boring. We were not able to interact with anyone like normal. It was not the ideal vacation having to stay inside all day. I did not have a phone so I was not able to call or text my friends.
The only way I was able to talk to anyone was on Zoom. That was a huge part of my summer. Although I was not very knowledgeable about Zoom at the time, my mom was able to help.
In the summers I would always go to my grandma's pool and spend hours and hours jumping in. That was all taken away from me that summer because the elderly were the most afraid of getting Covid. It was by far the worst summer I have ever had.
Friendships and depression
I was never very depressed because I made this trick. I would force a smile and that made me happier. I always use that trick when I am down on life.
Also, my dog was a great spirit lifter. My friendships were ruined. I could never see them and hardly got to talk to them. Pretty much everything I did with my friends was in person.
At one point I thought I would never be able to go back with my friends. The best friend I had at this point was my sister, and that is not much of a friend.
Masks and social distancing
It was very hard for me to get through that point in time because of my parents. My dad was huge on not wearing a mask and my mom was all for it. If my mom could, she might have put me in an unpoppable bubble.
My dad at the beginning of all this said he would not let me wear a mask. But then due to my mother’s strong arguing skills, she made him give in. That was a relief not having to hear both of them arguing all day. That was pretty stressful because I did not know how far that could go.
Social distancing was awful. The masks became a thing that I got used to but the social distance was hard. I would find myself walking to someone to give them a hug, but then I had to remind myself that I couldn't. That was pretty heartbreaking.
The only visits I had with my grandparents were outside on the front lawn. We would sit in lawn chairs and space out as much as possible. My mom would get very mad if my grandma tried to get anywhere near me, my sister or my cousin because she wanted to keep everyone safe.
When my dad and I had Covid my mom made us stay in our bedrooms all day. My mom brought us room service. She made us breakfast, lunch and dinner. Honestly, that wasn’t so bad because my mom makes the BEST breakfast.
When I was quarantining in my bedroom, it was hard to find stuff to do. During that time, the NBA playoffs were going on. That made my experience a lot better because it took up the whole night. In the mornings and afternoons I played on my mini basketball hoop in my bedroom. That was the next best thing to real basketball.
The controversy, arguments and holidays
My mom and dad continued to argue about wearing masks. My mother also argued with my grandma because my grandma wanted to do things that my mother didn’t think were safe for her to do.
My grandma is a very independent person, but my mom didn’t want her to leave her house for anything. My mom was so scared of her getting sick. My mom and my uncle took turns getting my grandma’s groceries and delivering them to her. My grandma argued with them because she was not afraid, and did not want someone else buying her groceries.
The holidays were hard. Two of our larger family Christmas parties were canceled. We still had a Christmas day party with my grandma, but it was very different because of Covid.
My mom did not want any of us coming in close contact with my grandma. My grandma hung clear shower curtains up to separate the dining room from the living room. She and my grandpa stayed on the dining room side and my family and my cousin’s family stayed on the living room side.
We did not share food or go on the other side of the curtain. My mom was very strict about this. She wouldn’t let my grandma get anywhere close to the curtain. That is why I call that Christmas “The Curtain Christmas.”
For the 2020-2021 school year, Mattapoisett students returned to classrooms in “cohorts,” smaller groups of children that would alternate between learning in-person and learning remotely.
How school was scheduled
It was weird being in the classroom some days and then not on others. My cohort was very small so it was hard to get used to the emptiness of the classroom. But over time that became my class.
When my cohort was out of school and at home the two cohorts Zoomed and did a lesson together. That made it a little more fun to be at home. I still missed school, and I could never get over that. Well, normal school. Even being in the classroom with less people we still had to space out as much as we could. If one of us got sick then none of us would be able to go to school at all. That was scary to me and my mom.
Social distancing, desks and the cafeteria
Going into the cafeteria for the first time again was weird. There were desks instead of the usual tables. Little did I know that is what it would be like for a couple of years.
We were told to not turn and talk to each other while eating, so it was pretty impossible to talk with my friends. We also had assigned seats, but I think they tried to put us near our friends.
Social distancing was always tough and now that we are back in school and things seem to be making progress it was even harder. You could not help to think that maybe life will never get back to normal.
Masks and rules
Mask rules were very strict, as they needed to be. You had to make sure at all times that your mask was never under your nose. That was hard especially being back at school where you are talking and it slowly comes down.
My mom made my sister and me wear special masks that were very very Covid protecting. I hated that because it was not fun to breathe. The worst was having to play in soccer games with the mask on.
April 2021, all together again
We were finally all back together at school. No more cohorts and no more online school. That seemed awesome at first but even though days-wise that was the shortest year, it felt like the longest.
It was hard to switch from hybrid school to full time in person school. When I was at home I had more time to do my work and could plan my own schedule. It was probably the most wasted year of school we have ever had. That year did help me to realize how much I liked math. We did more fun activities than actual normal work.
How my family was affected
My dad was still working a lot of extra hours during Covid. My mom started to go back to work in the office on the days that my sister and I were in person at school. My mom was still trying to keep my grandma from going outside of her house. She has been trying to get out of the house more.
That put my mom in a very tough position because she knew Covid was getting better, but she was still scared. Now that more people are going out, more people are getting sick again. That has a major impact on my family as well as all other families.
Looking back as a sixth grader
Looking back now there are a lot of things that as a country we could have done better. We do have to take into consideration that we were only working with the little information that we had at the time. I still think it is pretty crazy that people stocked up on toilet paper.
Another crazy part of looking back and just remembering is masks. Before Covid you were able to go to places like the dentist and the doctor’s office without wearing a mask. Now that is all changed. Now we have to wear a mask in a lot of places like that where we did not have to wear one before. I think that was probably one of the good things that came out of Covid.