Hold harmless and other Covid-19 adjustments changed my education because “normal” wasn’t working
April 20th, 2020, 8:35 AM:
“Good morning Mr. Savoie!
As you probably know, FUSD passed CR/No CR for this semester, with the hold-harmless clause that is supposedly supposed to protect grades from dropping from where they were on March 13th. While I would never take this situation to slack off on the Eagle Era, if I just happened to not be able to turn in another Spanish assignment for the rest of the semester, will my grade actually not drop? As this sounds very fishy, I have come seeking your expert opinion as a grade giver if there is, in fact, a catch.
Most, if not all students at American know how this story went. There was no catch, there was no incentive to do school work, AP exams were 45 minutes long, and everybody randomly started baking instead of learning trig functions. However, I do not believe Ms. Hold Harmless got the recognition and props she deserved. To set the record straight, I need to go back to freshman year.
I was pretty confident in school my freshman year and my GPA was the highest it ever would be. I liked school because I was good at it, even though I wasn’t necessarily intent on keeping the information I learned and instead followed a formulaic approach to securing the grade.
Sophomore year threw a wrench in the formula as Honors Chemistry does not care that I read the chapter and BS’d the homework (excuse my language). That, along with a dash of personal life problems, added up to feeling not so great about sophomore year, even though I joined journalism (which I ended up taking three times, like a nerd) and started to find my place in the marching band and other extracurricular activities.
And the famous junior year. I was nauseous all the time and living my best life simultaneously. It was the year of the Gatsby Party and doing school work during winter break because THIS was the year colleges cared about.
I was set to take my SAT the day after AHS announced its closing. I missed my first Zoom class by accident and then missed a lot more on purpose. When the hold harmless announcement happened, I rewatched The Office and read Mrs. Smith’s daily emails or clicked through Anatomy & Physiology assignments. Apparently whatever was in the air at school (smoke, stress, whatever) had been upsetting my stomach, ‘cause I was no longer feeling sick all the time.
I think I have always undermined the toll school was having on my mind and body, not necessarily just because of the fact that grades exist or anything like that, but because I also did not feel like I had the skills to deal with the mental issues that come with school. In health, we learned that we should “make stress your friend,” but stress must have been a clingy toxic friend because I did not find the emotion as helpful as advertised.
Also, I didn’t know I kinda dug math (or maybe the software was just pretty, we’ll never know). I did all of the lessons until the last two or three weeks when interest was not enough motivation, but there is something satisfying about big green highlights when you get an answer right that’s almost as powerful as the letter grade.
Finally, and probably most importantly, hold harmless gave me time to think about my relationship to education. I have never doubted that I would go to college, but it was never like “Omg! Four more years of classes, I’m going to swoon,” but most of the jobs I have been interested in are not degree-optional. I imagine a lot of high schoolers must be like Yale alumni Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls, buying merch and reading college brochures years before high school and imagining their life in their dream college, but I never happened to be one of those people. However, just like I want to love my studies if they didn’t matter, I also want to love my college if it didn’t matter.
There’s a lot I still need to figure out, but I have no idea where I would be without hold harmless. Being given the space to reset and re-strategize has made me refreshed and ready for my next educational step as I hope it has also been helpful to you all! Actually, it almost seems unfair that after this year, it is very possible that school will simply reset to the way it was before March 13th if not for students and educators that have pushed for lasting change with initiatives such as the mental health task force. So yea, thank you hold harmless for teaching me that “normal” isn’t the way it always has to be.