Airing on Nickelodeon from 2004 to 2007, the beloved Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide was not just another American sitcom. More than just a source of entertainment to devour along with our afternoon snack of sliced apples and Oreos, the adventures of Ned Bigby, Jennifer “Moze” Mosely, and Simon “Cookie” Nelson-Cook taught us everything we needed to know about navigating the scary world of middle school. With tips like “get a haircut two weeks early” (#109A) and “avoid overstuffing backpack” (#683.4) in our arsenal, there wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. But, despite Ned’s thoroughness, there is something he didn’t account for: a global pandemic leading to the shutdown of school campuses and a new universe of online and asynchronous (what does that word mean anyway?) learning to navigate. If Ned and his crew were to give us advice on school during a pandemic, what would they say to us? What goldmine of middle school wisdom would they present? While I am no preteen boy with a mop-top haircut, I am someone who has seen all 54 episodes of Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide so if Ned were to make a guide for us now, this is probably what he would say:
Tip #313: Don’t Lose Connection from Friends
Obviously, nothing can come close to the real-life experience of sitting in class and whispering to those around you, or waiting for the lunch bell to ring so you can sprint to your friend’s car and make it to Raising Cane’s and back (or Chick-Fil-A for those who are only slightly less daring). But taking classes from home doesn’t have to mean complete and total isolation. Form FaceTime study groups and support each other through those AP macroeconomic problem sets that just don’t make sense. Turn your cameras on and pin your friends to your screen (during independent work time, of course, as to not distract yourself from your teacher’s lecture). Call them up during lunch to complain about the workload. Unfortunately, technology makes it possible for us to keep taking tests, but it also makes it possible for us to maintain friendships in an era of social distancing.
Tip #389: Keep a Routine
If you’re anything like me, the past few months have been a cycle of sleeping in the AM, waking up in the PM, and putting on the same “oversized t-shirt and sweatpants” combo from yesterday. Luckily, online school gives us a structure to our day that we were definitely lacking, but it is still up to us to keep a routine in order to give ourselves the best chance for success. Maintain a sleep schedule that allows for the recommended eight hours of shut-eye. Set an alarm so you can wake up with enough time to get ready before having to turn on your camera for period one painting class. Change out of your pajamas. Small habits are easy to incorporate into our day and a little goes a long way in terms of getting ourselves in the right mindset for school. I guarantee you that we will all be better for it.
Tip #557: Find a Quiet Space Designated for School and Studying
Our houses are now our campuses and, for many of us, we have to share the space (and the WiFi) with siblings or parents who are also attending school or work from home. It’s crucial to find a place free of as many distractions as possible to attend online classes and complete homework. Keep the space organized to make sure you are staying on top of all your assignments. Communicate with your family members so everyone remains undisturbed when they need to be. To improve concentration, make sure this quiet space is the same place every day. While it is impossible to recreate the exact environment from your AP statistics classroom in your bedroom, these are things that can be done to improve the situation as much as possible.
No one, not even our favorite middle school life coach, could have predicted that back to school season would involve purchasing more laptop webcams and microphones than notebooks and pencils. As bleak as the world of online school may seem, just know that while Ned might not be around to give advice, your teachers, classmates, family, and friends are. “Never fear, bring it on, break it down!”