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School of Hard Notts: Twelve Year Old Jagoda Brown-Polanowska on Returning to Class and Saving the Planet

16 April 21 words: Jagoda Brown-Polanowska
illustrations: Carmel Ward

Jagoda Brown-Polanowska has been contributing to LeftLion throughout the pandemic, updating us on the state of affairs through the eyes of a twelve-year-old. As students have returned to a COVID-age schooling, we hear how uncomfortable masks, loneliness and Google Meet are a part of the story that shaped the next generation… 

My name is Jagoda, and I am twelve-years-old. I am half Polish and half English. I first started writing for LeftLion when I was eleven, and I was originally going to write this article for an issue last year, but due to Coronavirus it was cancelled. So, here I am – over a year later writing the same article. I've started writing it in the last week of homeschooling with my school uniform clean and ironed, lying on my bed, waiting for Monday. 

I didn't really know what to feel about going back. I was excited about seeing all my friends and playing hide-and-seek with them, but I was definitely not looking forward to the homework and the awfully uncomfortable school uniform. However, on the last day of homeschooling I had a taste of how it would be when I returned to school, because I had to go and get a COVID test. Some of my friends were really worried because they thought that the teachers will stick needles in them and take their blood, but I’d been tested before. The testing went pretty smoothly for me, but my friend said that she had to wait half an hour for hers. 

After my first day back, I realised how uncomfortable it is to wear a mask all the time. Everyone will have to wear it now in school at all times (except for lunchtime, of course) and every week we will be tested. It's really hard to concentrate because when you try and look down at your book the rim of the mask pokes you in the eye and the straps are pulling at your ears and irritating them. I think that once we'll be able to take the masks off and forget about them, our ears will be folded and bent up like dumplings from the pressure of the masks. 

I actually quite liked the second time schools were closed in England because for me it was a little rest from the routine. I also felt less lonely than during the first one, but many of my friends have become depressed. I think that they probably felt very isolated and alone, especially those who didn't have the proper equipment to learn. I think that many schools worked out a better way of conducting online lessons. For example, most of my lessons were Google Meet classes (something like Zoom but made by Google). We had to have our cameras and microphones switched off unless a teacher asked us to turn them on. The lessons were much more organised than in the previous lockdown and I enjoyed them a lot more. After school, my friend and I would go and play in the park right next to my house. It was really fun. I also got to spend more time with my cat, Mela. She would always try and squeeze on the chair with me and she would sometimes push me off.  

I think that having longer school days and shorter holidays is one of the worst ideas the government has ever thought of.

Children with better equipment or better learning conditions (having their own quiet room or desk) were contributing more during lessons. I had to do the live lessons on my phone a couple of times when my laptop was being slow or decided to update. I couldn't really see what the teacher was showing us because the screen was so small and I found it hard to 'type'. It was quite annoying to do so for a short while, so I can't imagine how hard it must have been for someone to learn like that all the time. That would have made me feel left out and sort of forgotten.

I think that having longer school days and shorter holidays is one of the worst ideas the government has ever thought of. During the lockdowns it’s not like we've been sitting around doing nothing, we've been working and, in my opinion, quite hard. Also, children need a rest: what would you think if the government told you that they think you should have longer hours at work and shorter holidays because you had to work from home? We are already tired by the end of a normal school day, so we'd be exhausted if we had to stay longer. We wouldn't be able to learn and we'd just be daydreaming. 

A teacher that made me smile while we were away from school was my English teacher. We were reading the book The Withered Arm, and for World Book Day, in-between reading the book, he'd switched on his camera and he'd be dressed up as characters. He borrowed the props to create the costumes from the drama studio. 

One of the many reasons why I can't wait for the restrictions to be lifted is so I can see my grandma. She lives in Poland and I haven't seen her since the summer. I really miss her. She lives in a small village in Pomerania. There have been very few cases of coronavirus there and the church is open and has a regular, but controlled, attendance. We often talk over the phone but we can't have video calls because she only has an old phone. But my grandma doesn't really have time to be bored because she has a really big garden and she's started planting all her vegetables, fruit and flowers. She also has a huge greenhouse, and a dog, chickens, and a cat. When I could not see my grandma for Christmas, I accepted it. I cannot see her for Easter either. But I will be very unhappy if I have shorter summer holidays and have to reduce my stay at my grandma’s this summer.

I also feel that due to our concerns over coronavirus, we are forgetting about nature and all the other animals and creatures living on this planet. We are so focused on our own problems that we are forgetting about the biggest long term concern, the one that we will only experience the effects of later on and then it will be too late to stop it: climate change. Some grown-ups think "Well it's just one plastic wrapper, how will it do any harm?". I hope that the planet will be okay for when I grow up but we can't only think about ourselves, we have to think about the people after us. One day, not so far away from now, dolphins, elephants, tigers and so many more beautiful and important creatures may be a thing of the past. Humans are the dominant species on Earth, and as the dominant species it is our responsibility to look after the planet. 

As for myself, when I grow up I want to work on BBC’s The Travel Show or be someone like David Attenborough. I've already written a letter to David Attenborough but he didn’t write back.  If or when I achieve my dreams, I will raise awareness of climate change and how we can help stop it or slow it down as much as we can.

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