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LIFE STORIES School days are sometimes pretty crazy. Especially when there’s still a math test to write on the last day of school for the year and a virus called Corona has a firm grip on the day’s schedule.
Tuesday, 15/12/2020, 2:10 pm. Corona case numbers have risen to the point that after a month and a half of lockdown-light (which has not improved the situation at all), the government has initiated the real lockdown. Finally, the twelfth grades are to have distance learning, starting tomorrow. I’m sitting alone downstairs in our school’s lounge. I’m laughing. This is crazy and not what I thought I would do during the last hour of the last school day of 2020.
Small warning: This story reflects my thoughts about the whole Corona school day, and they can be pretty confusing – or even crazy – sometimes.
5:40 am. Once again, I’m overhearing the alarm clock. The day itself promises to be nice, if it weren’t for this little thing in the last lesson: maths test. I’m always afraid of math tests. Even if you understand everything in theory, a blackout can ruin your entire grade. I have already experienced that last year and would prefer to not repeat the situation.
You’re afraid of blackouts too? Click here.
I wanted to use every chance to get good marks and this is what I am going to do. I’m studying in the car one more time. I could have done that on the bus later, but even though now the bus is emptier because of the alternating classes – whose usefulness to defeat Corona is to be doubted – the bus doesn’t seem to me like a place where one should study (maybe that’s also because I get nauseous quickly on the bus). But since I have forgotten my headphones, I have no choice but to observe the landscape, still in the dark. I’m mentally preparing for the day.
A red sky
The second morning red in two days, I think to myself as I’m standing at the window in the first lesson and trying to capture the sunrise with the HDR camera function of my phone. Yesterday I have also thought of photographing a similarly beautiful backdrop, but there were just too many people around me, in front of which I would have had to justify myself.
Now five of us are sitting in a room – also because of this crazy Corona virus – watching the end of the movie ‘Mario and the Magician’ while the other seventeen people in our German class are doing lessons with our teacher above us (someone must not have been able to count when he divided us into two rooms).
We are to compare the movie with the book and give reasons why the film version turns out so much more dramatically than the original does. (Warning, spoiler!) Fascism is the big theme. That totalitarian system of power embodied in ‘Mario and the Magician’ by the magician Cipolla. The assistants Cipolla has in the film confuse us. Almost all the card tricks and number games are omitted. The hypnotizing takes on a comic undertone.
But the strangest thing surprises us at the end. Now Cipolla does not die and with him fascism, as it is described in the book. Rather, Cipolla gets Mario’s secret love Silvestra to kill the innocent Mario. Fascism, then, shows its crazy face. We’re beginning to discuss in the room. How it is that none of the viewers realize the drama of the situation. It is only in retrospect that one seems to realize what has just really happened. Then, when it is already long too late to do anything about it.
Corona hygiene rules
The implementation of the hygiene rules at our school often seems more improvised than anything else. So the instruction of our German teacher is also crazy (sorry for using the word ‘crazy’ so often, but it describes the whole day best) when it finally comes to the room change after 50 minutes. While our seventeen classmates walk down the stairs and into the room where they are now to independently analyse – as we did before – Mario’s wonderfully dramatic ending, we five students stand outside in the schoolyard in front of the door. This is to prevent any contact between the two groups.
I don’t want to complain here, because in fact such a small group of five students can be quite pleasant – even if the entire class participation is then limited to 4 students. This is how the rest of the German lesson passes. Every now and then I interject my thoughts, but at the same time I seriously think about whether I like school better in Corona times. At least – the corridors are emptier, the bus ride is more pleasant and you are ideally only watched by the teacher for 45 minutes.
Terrible, however: Corona made our headmaster forbit eating and drinking in the building. While my friend Vini uses the break and subsequent free period to buy Christmas presents in town, I’m standing in the schoolyard with hands freezing from the cold and am trying to enjoy my breakfast at least halfway. Lisa comes up to me and says that even the break is no longer allowed in the common room. Corona is really starting to drive me crazy. Our relief is great when the bell finally rings.
Free period is not synonymous with free time in my world. Because of course I still have maths exercises planned for these 90 minutes. First of all, there’s this one that I have already picked out last night, but haven’t managed d), e) and f). Sighing, I’m setting to work.
I often miscalculate and get a headache. I’m deciding to get some fresh air. You don’t get enough of that in the common room, because the windows that are there don’t open (which is crazy, because this circumstance is especially good for spreading Corona). Even more worthy of consideration, however, is the rather loose hygiene attitude of my year-mates, because most of them do not keep the minimum distance at all. How could they when there are 8 people sitting around a table?
Lisa and I don’t have that problem at our table of two. At least most of the people in here wear masks while handing out Christmas gifts to each other… But enough of thinking. I wanted to get some fresh air.
When I’m finally getting outside, I’m not finding any peace. A window is open and I’m hearing film music in the background. Someone must be watching Christmas films on the last day of school. I’m smiling. We used to do that in the smaller classes too, now we’re lucky if we get to watch a history documentary. We are about to take our school-leaving exams. There are no Christmas films or second chances. I should probably finish my maths exercises.
In the next lesson, we have physics. Much to my displeasure, I have to follow the lesson from the second last row, because all the two-person benches have to be divided up by corona. But what am I complaining about? We have physics. Quantum physics. As you know, I love quantum physics. These incredible sounding theories that waves can be made of particles (and vice versa!) are beyond imagination. I mean, we’re sitting here calculating numbers of 9.1*10-31 kg (which is the mass of an electron and about 0.000000000000000000000091 kg). The first 70 minutes fly by.
Just then, our physics teacher – who always addresses us as ‘kids’ or ‘people’ – is starting to read out the usual monthly instructions. It’s always interesting to hear what crazy facts they want to warn us students about. But someone must have looked into an unexploded New Year’s Eve rocket to find out if it still works. At least we don’t have this problem because of Corona this year …
Physics is also often brought up, for example when it comes to lying flat on ice in order to exert as little pressure as possible on the ice layer and not to collapse. Whether there will be any ice and snow at all this winter remains to be seen. But we don’t want to talk about climate change in Corona times … (By the way: It turned out that it snowed a lot this winter.)
Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is arriving. ‘‘So, people’’, our physics teacher is saying, ‘‘let’s hand out your performance records’’. Performance records. Quasi school reports in the upper school, whose grade points also flow into our A-levels. He calls a few people ‘model students’ whose grade points he has found to be good after a quick glance. I’m not looking closely at my performance record again. I have been calculating what it says one by one for the last few weeks. And I was surprised when a teacher’s mistake at the last moment gave me a better grade. But that’s another story (which, by the way, can be read here).
12:30. Lunch break is in 5 minutes and we are supposed to stay in the physics room until then. Without saying goodbye, I’m turning my back on the table in the second last row and going to the front row to Vini and Philip, with whom I am about to write the maths test. Philip is coming up to me and asking, ‘‘Have you read the maths chat yet?’’ Astonished, I’m looking at him. What news should there be? Our maths teacher would never skip the test. ‘‘We’re supposed to be in the room in ten minutes. The test has been moved up.’’
My pulse rate quickens. I’m reading the chat. It seems like our maths teacher has forgot about a doctor’s appointment at 2:15 pm and unceremoniously decided to just start class 20 minutes early. Great, Corona and now this … Okay, stay calm, Maja. You can do this, you’ve practised more than enough. So we’re going straight to the maths room.
Since I’m sitting right in front of the door and thus in the corridor where our headmistress and her deputy have their offices, I’m turning around to the back. I don’t want people to see that I’m secretly eating something (despite the Corona hygiene rules!). I don’t want to go outside and possibly miss the start of the test, nor do I want to start work hungry.
Slowly the room is filling up. ‘Why doesn’t he just cancel the test?’, I’m hearing some classmates ask. After all, this was the last lesson of the last real school day in 2020 – and there was still this virus called Corona. But this question will probably remain unanswered forever. My surprise is definitely huge when the task sheets for the test are finally handed out. The questions are looking very familiar. In fact, this is a shortened version of the same book problem that I had already painstakingly worked through yesterday and today.
Beaming with joy – which of course cannot be seen under my mask (which hopefully will protect me from Corona) – I’m beginning to calculate. And sure enough, I’m coming up with the same results again. Did I make the same mistakes twice? No, I’m reassuring myself. I have checked the results with ‘desmos’ (a totally cool function graphing programme). Everything should be correct. Ten minutes before the deadline, I’m done. I’m looking around, everyone is still writing – even Philip, the maths genius. I’m leisurely checking the assignments again – checking them twice has already saved me from handing in a few mistakes.
Still in a good mood, I’m handing over my written sheets. That’s a good start to my last term at school. My first grade points in 12/2. ‘‘That was an easy test, wasn’t it?’’, I’m asking Vini. ‘‘What did you get for a turning point?’’, she’s interrupting me. ‘‘Mmh… (3/3.57) I think.’’ ‘‘Crap’’, she’s saying, turning it to our teacher. ‘‘Um… you’re probably giving follow up errors again. After all, Christmas is coming soon.’’ ‘‘But that was an easy test, wasn’t it?’’, he’s retorting. ‘‘Well’’, Vini is saying, ’’it could quite possibly be that I have calculated the wrong turning point…’’ ’’That seems to be happening to you a lot lately’’, the teacher is observing.
Indeed. Since her 15 mark points in the last maths exam (which is an A+), Vini has made many an awkward mistake in her tests. ‘’You won’t get such an easy test from me again. It was quite possible to write 14 and 15 points here’’, our maths teacher is just telling us. This is his kind of Christmas present then, I think.
But my good mood is getting a damper when the teacher’s adding: ‘’We’ll do five more minutes’’. He’s mentioning two book pages. That’s actually good, isn’t it? 40 minutes early closing time. Not for me, unfortunately, because if I ran now, I might still make the bus an hour early at the station. Of course, I could also ask if I could leave earlier. But some feeling is telling me: Hey, you don’t have to rush off. So I’m staying, not finding the motivation to start with the aforementioned tasks.
By the time we’re finishing, it’s actually 2:00 pm. Vini and Philip are sprinting off, they still have a realistic chance of catching their bus. Nice farewell, I’d say. I’m laughing. We couldn’t hold each other in our arms anyway because of Corona. 15 minutes later, Vini is texting me that they are on the bus. I, on the other hand, am sitting in the now almost completely empty common room for the second time that day.
Fortunately, I’m not completely alone. After a few minutes, a classmate from my maths class is coming in the door. ‘’It’s funny’’, I’m hearing myself saying, ‘’that we’re sitting here alone in the common room in the last lesson of the last school day of the year.” At that moment it is occuring to me that what I have experienced on this corona day might be worth writing down.