Remember the first day of 5th grade, when you were handed a lock by your homeroom teacher? You ran out to the hallway with the rest of your class, debating taking a top or a bottom locker. People all around you pulled out decorations: pictures, mirrors, whiteboards, rugs, and even chandeliers. This locker was a piece of the school to make your own. All this just to find that you had absolutely no idea how to lock up your belongings. But after a few YouTube demonstrations and practice runs, you became a pro. Clear it. Right. Left. Right.
Lockers are intended to safely store unneeded items, such as coats or textbooks, during the school day. In middle school, that’s exactly what they did. Students dropped off their backpacks and jackets in their decorated lockers, and took out only the things necessary for their next class.
But then, COVID-19 hit. Schools across the world shut down for quarantine. Whether your memories of quarantine revolve around sleeping in, struggling with zoom classes, or going insane from cabin-fever, remote learning affected everyone. It removed the structured environment from the school day and allowed students to dump all their stuff on a desk (or more likely a couch) and chip away at their work as they pleased.
Then came phase 2, the time of hybrid learning and full-in-fridays. Any sort of congregating in school was strictly prohibited, which included the social norm of gathering around lockers in between classes. Thus, locker use was banned for the year. Students were forced to carry all of their classwork and belongings around with them throughout the day. As a temporary solution, this seemed reasonable. But as the school situation slowly but surely returned to normal, the locker situation did not. Sure, lockers were no longer prohibited. But the newfound convenience of having all of one’s belongings on hand seemed to overrule the importance of locker usage.
Now here we are, two years later. The vast majority of Bedford High Schoolers choose to carry all of their items in their backpack instead of using one of the hundreds of lockers that Bedford High School provides. I must admit, I am one of those students. I remember on my introductory tour of Bedford High School in eighth grade, my guide let my group in on a little secret: nobody uses the lockers. This statement has been proven true during my time so far at BHS. Perhaps high schoolers do not use their lockers because it is inconvenient to have a locker, say, on the first floor, while half of their classes are on the third floor. This sounds logical, but I’m still left wondering how this dramatic increase in the weight of the students’ packs affects them.
The average weight of a school backpack is 12-20 pounds. According to my bathroom scale, my own backpack weighs 20.4 pounds. It can’t possibly be healthy to carry 20.4 pounds on my back all day, every school day. Online school management site, Ism, says, “Even in a digital age, students are still carrying overloaded bags…Overbearing weight is linked to student back and neck strains as well as nerve damage in the neck and shoulders.” Are convenience and instant gratification worth the pain that the unnecessary weight may inflict over the long term? Symmetry Health Chiropractic Center says, “According to a recent estimate, 96 percent of children in school are carrying way too much on their backs. In fact, 5,000 children every year go to the emergency department for backpack injuries. And, more than 14,000 children are treated yearly for related problems.” Sadly, these incredibly high numbers do not come as a shock. A consistent heavy weight sitting on students’ shoulders is sure to take a toll on their health. Might it be worth it to take a quick trip to a locker in between classes to save yourself from future health issues?
To put it in simple terms, lockers provide an easy and safe storage place for your belongings, while lightening your daily load and decreasing the likelihood of neck, shoulder, and back injuries. Whether you choose to pass up this accommodation for convenience is up to you. Researching this topic in depth has reminded me of the importance of lockers, and I’ll definitely be getting one for next year!