By Sue Tiffin
Abby Gordon was sitting in a class studying in the last month of school in her firstyear of the developmental service program at Algonquin College inOttawa when everything changed. As the coronavirus spread into Ontario so was news that nearby universities were planning closures for twoweeks or for the rest of the school year initiating online classes tokeep students home.
“I was actually in class when one of my teacherswas talking to us about it and she was saying she didn’t think theschool would get cancelled and if it did get cancelled it would only be two weeks that it wasn’t that serious and we had nothing to worryabout” said Gordon. “By the end of that class – it’s a two hour classand she was talking about it at the beginning – by the end of thatclass everything was cancelled.”
As soon as Gordon got the emailnoting that classes would be moving online she finished the classpacked everything up and came straight home to Minden without stoppingalong the way.
“It was a big change in a very small period of time” she said.
That change meant the cancellation of her placement and that her classesmoved online which created challenges for Gordon who is a visuallearner.
“That’s not my ideal way of learning at all I always getvery good marks and honours and I’m not saying I’m getting bad marks now but it’s a lot harder to do it online” she said. “Even to askquestions of your teachers you have to email them you can’t talk tothem face-to-face and ask questions in class and then you have to waitfor their response before you can continue the lesson. It’s a bigchange.”
Gordon said the switch to online classes resulted in moreassignments and quizzes so that teachers could assess students whichcame as added stress for many students who were in the middle of movinghome and sorting out accommodations and part-time jobs. Additionallyaccess to internet throughout the province is not equal.
“I live inthe Blairhampton [area] so my wi-fi is not that good because it’s in the middle of the forest so even with bad wi-fi it brought a lot ofstress and made everything completely different” said Gordon.
While many students have struggled to keep summer jobs as businesses acrossthe province closed adding stress to those needing to pay for schooland accommodation in the fall Gordon is fortunate to have secured a job working as a screener at the Minden hospital but still has to payhundreds of dollars of monthly rent on the townhouse in Ottawa she lives in during the school year because it isn’t safe to sublet it to others.
At 20 she said the summer will look different – weddings and babyshowers are being cancelled her 21st birthday at the end of this monthwon’t go as planned and said she understands the grief of high schoolstudents.
“The students that have been going through high school forthe last four years and so excited for this day it’s now cancelled. And it’s devastating because they’ve been working so hard for that theentire time and now it’s just been taken away. It’s nobody’s fault butit’s super frustrating when that happens.”
For this generation facing their first major historic event there is much worry of an unstable future.
“On the news it said this could last 18 months to two years and I’m like well what am I going to do? I’m supposed to go back to school nextyear and graduate next year and now that might not be happening so Ihave no idea what my future holds anymore because it all just got sodisrupted so fast.”
Gordon said she continues to see some friends not taking the pandemic seriously noting that social media tools allow her to see a user’s location.
“I still see to this day people hangingout and I don’t understand because it’s a rule” said Gordon. “You’renot supposed to hang out other than with your family members you’reobviously living with but so many students are still seeing each other hanging out with their friends or going for a drive in their car andI’m like – that’s not six feet.”
Gordon’s mom is a nurse her dad is a volunteer firefighter and her sister is a paramedic and she saidhaving a family that works on the front line makes her extra aware ofthe threat of the virus.
“I just want everybody to take itseriously and understand that once we all comply to the rules this will end a lot faster” said Gordon. “But if we don’t comply it’s going tobe going on forever – we’re going to lose our summer we’re going tolose our next year of school. You have to play by the rules if you wantsomething to come out of this. This can end a lot of faster. We can endit. We’re capable of ending it. But we have to do what they’re tellingus to do to end it.”