Tim Szo, who is about to graduate from Stelly’s Secondary School’s French immersion program, feels grateful these days.
While expressing disappointment about not being able to walk across the graduation stage in the same manner as his sister four years ago, he knows students in other provinces are still learning in front of their screen from their homes but away from their friends.
“In a sense, I feel pretty privileged that I have been able to go to school in person for my Grade 12 year,” he said.
Szo is especially grateful for being able to continue his French immersion studies in-person as learning another language is more than just learning its grammar and vocabulary. It is also about hearing the language while reading facial expressions that convey meaning.
“Last spring, when we were fully online at home, I was doing my social studies course in French and there was no oral aspect, which is really important in French, for fluency,” he said. “Doing it back in person has been good.”
When asked how wearing masks has impacted his studies, Szo said some thought it was going to be a challenge, but it did not turn out that way. “There have probably been a few times where I had to ask the teacher to repeat herself, but for the most part, it really has not been too much of a hindrance.”
Overall, Szo said it might have been different if Grade 12, like parts of Grade 11, had happened online. “But the way I see, I don’t think I am at a disadvantage to anybody who completed the French immersion program before COVID-19.”
Looking back, Szo said the experience of last year’s lockdown was challenging. Having little communication with teachers, Szo said he didn’t feel like he was going to school.
“Honestly, I don’t remember too much of the three-and-a-half-month period … It kind of felt like one long day.”
One big question facing high school graduates of both 2020 and 2021 is how post-secondary institutions and employers might gauge the quality of their education.
Szo, who plans to study business after spending time in France to learn the language and business practices, said he is not sure whether he will experience any discrimination, subtle or otherwise.
“I think employers will recognize that we had this experience going through COVID-19. I really don’t think it will be an issue, but only time will tell.”
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