Shawnee Mission Faces: Hope Fritton, SM South debate student stuck at home

For Hope Fritton, a junior at Shawnee Mission South, this unprecedented school year can be summed up in one word: Fake. 

A speech and debate teen and student member of the Young Democrats Club at Shawnee Mission South, Fritton used to enjoy debate tournaments on weekends and spending time with friends, particularly in their one quirky pastime of goofing off at local pharmacies. A youth group member at St. Thomas the Apostle, she lives in Lenexa with her family. Note: Shawnee Mission returns to hybrid learning Oct. 26.

School doesn’t feel real.

I got used to seven months of not really having to do anything. And now, I’m thrust into this place where it’s like AP classes and honors work, and I have to take the P-SAT in two weeks, and NHS applications are due on Friday. I’m a good student, but I have a C in English right now because I forgot to turn in my past two assignments.

It just feels so fake, and when it feels like there’s not real school, there’s no real motivation for me.

Quick background on this spring: In the spring semester, all school was optional. They didn’t make you show up for classes. Now, I’m in a situation where I have to show up to class. Otherwise, I get docked an attendance or I’ll miss an important assignment or something like that. Because their intention is to make it like real school, but you’re at home.

But home is not necessarily the best place to do all of your learning. There are dogs, and there are dads who work from home who are on phone calls. And there are YouTube videos that you can watch without anybody getting mad at you, because they can’t see your screen.

There are weird things that you can google that aren’t necessarily related to your class but are really great ways to procrastinate. I googled when were bandaids invented. I googled how do prop cigarettes work. I was like, people on Mad Men can’t smoke that many cigarettes in a day. John Hamm would have lung cancer, come on. (laughs)

I was talking to somebody about this the other day — and I’ve noticed this among a lot of my friends — is that it’s really hard to stay motivated. You hear so many messages from people during COVID of well, make sure you get dressed in the morning and make it feel like normal. But the thing is, it’s not normal. And it feels like no matter what I do, it’s going to still be abnormal. It’s not normal for me to go to class in my house.

And when the school day actually ends and I have actual work to do that, if I was in school, would be considered homework, I have no motivation because it feels like I just spent the last seven hours of my day doing homework.

If you can just turn your camera off and sit in your bed in a dark room and pretend to be in class, yeah, that’s not the best way to go to class, but it is a way to go to class. And I’m not going to say I’ve never gone to class like that. And nobody’s going to call you out on it, and nobody’s going to get mad at you for it. So why shouldn’t I just chill out in my room in my pajamas all day?

Today, I had a test in one of my classes, and our teacher was like, I need you all to turn your cameras on. She was like, I don’t care how you look. And I was like, I don’t care if you care how I look. I care how I look, and the way I look right now is not the image I want to be presenting.

I understand right now we have to do school virtually because it’s not safe if we were to go back to school. And as much as I miss my friends, and as much as I really, really, really miss being in school, I also know that that’s not realistic right now.

Sometimes I just sit in my room and I’m like if we had just stuck to quarantine back in May and stayed home for three or four weeks, I might be in school right now, and I might have been able to go to debate camp during the summer. So many other things might have changed. But we didn’t because some people thought that it wasn’t worth it.

And I’m in a spot where I hear adults talking about teenagers not following COVID precautions, and obviously that’s true. I know a lot of people who still hang out in large groups and do all of the things that people say they shouldn’t do. But I feel like we are not the driving force behind those cases. That’s adults who have made the decision that they are not going to make some sacrifices in order to save the lives of others.

You know, I haven’t lost anybody to COVID yet, and I hope that I never do. But I’ve lost a lot. I’ve lost six months of time that I could have spent hanging out with my friends, doing weird stuff at pharmacies. I lost a bunch of time that I could have spent going and visiting colleges. I wanted to have a really fun summer. I wanted to go on a mission trip to L.A. with my church.

It’s not like everything’s bad and it’s hard to be optimistic, it’s just I feel like if I let myself feel optimistic and think that school is going to start again, I’m going to get let down. I’m going to get another email from the district that says we don’t get to school for another three or four months.  If you expect that, it doesn’t hurt as much when you get bad news. But if you were really, really hoping for it, it sucks.

It’s just about sanity at this point. I don’t know if I’m in a good place or a bad place. But I do know that I am in a sane place.