Interviewed May 6, 2020. Interview was edited for clarity and length.
Catherine, 17, is the daughter of Stephanie & Ed Sherling and is a graduating senior at The Lovett School. She’s a lifelong member of PRUMC and of its children’s & youth choir program.
What has it been like for you to have your school close and to experience the last part of your senior year in such a different way than you expected?
About two weeks before school closed, when we still had no idea how bad this was going to be, they showed us a video on how to properly wash your hands. And we all just thought, “This is so dumb that they’re making such a big deal out of this.” And then they shut down school, and that was a little surprising. But it was supposed to be just two weeks, so we thought we’d be going back. We thought, “There’s no way this is the end of school, is it?” But it was.
At this point in a normal senior year, we would be thinking, “It’s only a week until this, or just another week until that.” It’s the little things like senior pranks and senior skip day that you had to look forward to. One of the hardest things is that there’s no closure on anything. We don’t get that last lunch with friends or the silly things like signing each other’s shirts, the things where you’ve always thought, “I can’t wait to do that.” The biggest blows were prom and graduation. Seeing those canceled was a really big bummer.
And I’ve been in choir at church since way back in Cherubs. Not getting my last Doxology tour is hard [Doxology’s scheduled Grand Canyon tour was cancelled]. I miss Doxology like a second family. I am very sad to see it go.
Online classes have been an experience. Senioritis is a real thing. It’s especially a thing when you wake up, put your computer on your bed, and just do all your classes there. We’ve been told all our lives, “Don’t spend all day on your computer or phone.” And now we’re spending five or six hours a day staring at a screen without moving. It’s kind of an ongoing test: How long can I pay attention to a Zoom meeting? And all of the things that break that up during the day are gone. Lunch with friends is gone. Breaks between classes are gone, along with the chance to hang out together. This just goes from class to class to class, which gets monotonous fast. It’s very isolating. Which I know is the point—but still!
How have you and your friends stayed connected during this time?
I have a very small, close-knit group of friends, and we live about five minutes from each other, so we go on little walks. These are friends who, before, might have come over to my house every Friday night. My dad’s a physician, though, so we are not having other people in our house during the quarantine. My friends and I are FaceTiming a lot. We send funny videos throughout the day. We’re also using Netflix Party. If you download that, it lets you watch something with other people at exactly the same time and chat about it in a box alongside. We’re doing a lot of movies and other stuff online. We’ve had to get a little creative.
Has the pandemic changed anything about your plans for where you’ll go to college or how you feel about leaving home?
Well, at this moment, I don’t actually know! I’m majoring in musical theater, which meant that I had a very unusual college process. I had to audition for the schools I wanted to attend, so there was no purpose in me visiting schools until I knew whether I had gotten in. I originally planned time to visit after I was going to be finished with my school musical. But then COVID hit, so everything closed. With musical theater, people tell me it’s not all the usual things that people consider in a college decision, it’s the vibe. Well, that’s not helpful, because I can’t get the vibe! I’m choosing between two schools, and luckily I saw one in January before everything hit. The other one is in Ohio, and I’ve never even been to Ohio, so this weekend I’m going up there to visit. The buildings won’t be open, but I’ll at least get to see the campus and the town it’s in.
By the end of this weekend I will have made a decision, which will be a relief. All of my friends had made their decision before quarantine started, so I’m sort of an oddball case in that regard. This whole thing has definitely made quarantine more stressful for me and my family.
Now that we’re a couple of months into this crisis, do you find that your feelings about it have changed at all versus how you felt at the beginning?
I will say that it’s becoming a lot more difficult to find the motivation to stay isolated. I know it’s so important, and I understand why, because of what my dad does. He comes home every day and we talk about things, and he’ll say, “At least we’re not sick.” And that’s true. But this is hard. Especially since this is my last summer at home. It’s a weird time, and it’s made this such a weird transition. So it’s especially hard to remember that even though I’m not experiencing things first-hand, I still need to be really careful. We just have to keep that in perspective and do what we can to make the best out of the situation that we’re in.
Do you have any advice for leaders who may find themselves looking at shutting schools again in the fall or spring if we have another wave?
I would say, just try to remember what the kids are going through. Remember that kids are trying. It’s so hard to stay focused online. Especially for seniors who feel like school is over. Taking notes on a computer while you’re already using that to watch the class itself is hard. It’s tough to be in a lecture-based class and just sit there. It’s really, really tough to stay on top of these assignments and keep your motivation. Online feels like something optional. It doesn’t feel like school.
If this virus does repeat and they have to do this again, I understand keeping academic rigor—but maintain that level of understanding and patience. And also, we should be patient with teachers, because I’m sure this isn’t easy for them, either!
Update: The Ohio trip was a success! Catherine will be attending Wright State University there in the fall.