From Driver’s Licenses To Dating, What It’s Like To Navigate High School During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Jordan King
Manuel Martinez, Katherine Nagasawa / WBEZ
Jordan King
Manuel Martinez, Katherine Nagasawa / WBEZ

From Driver’s Licenses To Dating, What It’s Like To Navigate High School During The COVID-19 Pandemic

This fall, we’ve been following Jordan King, a junior at Naperville North High School, as she navigates remote learning during the pandemic. She recently took over the WBEZ Instagram account and answered some of your questions about how COVID-19 has impacted teenage life.

Here are a few highlights, as seen on Instagram and told to WBEZ reporters, lightly edited for clarity and brevity:

What’s your class schedule like?

Monday is asynchronous — that’s when you can do your own work and teachers upload assignments to Canvas. I do the work from 9:30 a.m. — 2:30 p.m. A couple weeks ago, my friends and I went to the library and hung out on an asynchronous day. Tuesday through Friday is a block schedule. On Tuesdays and Thursday, I have my first four periods, and on Wednesdays and Fridays, I have the last four.

What’s the hardest class to take online?

My first period of the day that I have on Tuesdays and Thursdays is orchestra. I play the violin, and that is so hard to do online. I’m used to being in a classroom and playing with a full orchestra and now we have to record all of our music on WeVideo or some other audio recording app. It sucks a lot. I miss being in the classroom and seeing all of my other fellow orchestra peers. I miss that a lot.

How has school spirit changed during the pandemic?

We didn’t really have a virtual spirit week, but our student activities office has put on some virtual events that we usually have in person, like our talent show and our multicultural show.

Jordan King studies in her room
Jordan works at a study station she set up in her bedroom. Courtesy of Jordan King

How do you balance school, work and extracurriculars?

I’ve found that with remote learning, it’s actually kind of easier to balance everything. With school, it’s on Zoom, so I do that in the first half of the day and then after school that’s usually when I have my extracurriculars. Some of those extracurriculars that I have to balance after school consist of some teen advisory boards I’m on, as well some clubs at school that I’m in. All of those are Zoom meetings, so it’s easy to schedule those on a little calendar I have in my room.

Are student groups still active?

A lot of student organizations and clubs at my high school are meeting via Zoom, and some of our sports teams have practices as well, of course socially distanced with masks, but we’re making it work.

I’m a part of the Black Student Union at my school as well as the National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society. We meet via Zoom. In regard to sports, I actually play field hockey. Our season doesn’t start until February. Usually it would start around August and last until November, but because of COVID we had to postpone it until next year.

How did you find an after-school job?

I’ve been on a teen advisory board at a community center since freshman year, and I noticed there was always a teen working the front desk. I found out they were hiring for the position, so I applied. It was my first job interview ever, so I was super scared, but it was a good experience! I work one to two days a week, so it’s easy to fit those work days in when I don’t have as many meetings after school. My boss just emailed that we can’t work in person until next January, so I’ve been working from home and checking kids in for certain programs and updating attendance and calendars in a database.

Jordan drivers license
Courtesy of Jordan King

What was it like getting your driver’s license?

My driving class started in January and it was supposed to end in April, but everything shut down in March and I had to take the end of the class online. I had a lot of time to get some practice in and would go driving with my family on the weekends.

To get my license, I went to the DMV and everyone had masks on. They were only letting a certain number of people in at a time. For my test, the lady had me put a plastic cover over the seat in the car. We were both wearing masks, but I didn’t have to put the windows down.

Have your parents been stricter during the pandemic?

My parents have changed around the rules for who I hang out with specifically. I obviously can’t hang around large groups of people so I have select friends that I’m hanging out with right now, but I’m making the best of it. I don’t want to put myself in danger as well because the virus is unpredictable, so I’m listening to my parents and not being rebellious.

Sometimes on social media I see that people will be hanging out with large groups of friends, but not as much anymore. People would hang out in downtown Naperville over the summer at the parking garages or along the riverwalk.

Jordan King and family
Jordan says having her family home at the same time she’s doing remote learning has been an adjustment, but they’re making it work. Courtesy of Jordan King

How do you manage family relationships when you’re all home together?

It’s really weird being home all the time. My room is kinda far away from everybody, so I like that because I’m able to focus on my work a little easier. I have the kitchen to myself a lot.

My younger sister Ella, my cat Sandy and my hermit crab Shermi are around too. Sometimes Sandy will sit in my closet and watch me work!

Jordan King and friends on FaceTime
Jordan and her friends catch up on FaceTime. Courtesy of Jordan King

How do you stay in touch with friends?

Usually during the week I’m FaceTiming my friends in between classes, but I’m laser-focused on school, work and extracurriculars. I make time for a social life on the weekends, especially now that I have my license. I see some friends in person, but we’ll set up Zoom calls too. We watched Grand Army together on Netflix on FaceTime, and we also watched Euphoria.

A lot of communication happens on social media — people use Snapchat and Instagram a lot. TikTok is popular for fun. You can spend five hours on it and not even realize it.


Do people still date during the pandemic?

Honestly, dating hasn’t changed at all. Some of my friends are in relationships, and they’re going strong. Their parents are fine with it — one friend works with her boyfriend. I don’t know of anyone who’s gotten into a new relationship, though.

Are you worried about applying to college next year?

Some seniors that I know who are in my teen advisory boards have said that applying for colleges is still stressful as ever so I don’t think anything with that has really changed as much, so I’m not really that worried. Right now I’m preparing for the SATs in April.

I saw some colleges this summer like Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia when I was visiting family. I’ve been researching schools since freshman year and have been keeping a list. I think I want to major in biological sciences, forensic pathology, ophthalmology or forensic biology — Criminal Minds, Law & Order SVU and House are some of my favorite shows!

Jordan King drinking Dunkin coffee
Jordan enjoys some Dunkin’ as an e-learning treat. Courtesy of Jordan King

How do you practice self care?

Because of remote learning, I have a little bit more time to binge some Netflix. My favorite show right now is actually American Horror Story. It is the best! I also paint my nails a lot — it’s really soothing — and take long showers

Sometimes for e-learning, I get a matcha or chai from Dunkin. But if it’s a special day and I want to go to Starbucks, my Starbucks order is a java chip frappuccino.

Do you have any advice for junior high students who are struggling?

Remember that a lot of times, things in life don’t go as planned, but it’s important that you are able to improvise and adapt and try and better yourself and educate yourself in that moment and use that to your advantage. In all, I would say my biggest tip is to make the most of it and to try and adapt as well as you can. Honestly, these are unprecedented times, but we have to try and do our best every day.

Katherine Nagasawa is WBEZ’s audience engagement producer. Follow her @Kat_Nagasawa. Libby Berry is a digital producer at WBEZ. Follow her @libbyaberry.