By: Nona Saharan
Sometimes school felt like a chore. Waking up at 6am, wandering around the hallways from class to class, staying after for the sports and the clubs or just to study at the library. Then, finally heading home, attempting to find some time to exercise and eat and finish the piles of homework that have weighed down your shoulders since first period. The clock hits 1am and you’re finally ready to get some sleep, trying to forget you’ll need to do the same thing all over again tomorrow. It’s exhausting. But for many, what makes this cycle more bearable is social interactions between friends and peers on an almost daily basis.
Endless Google Classroom posts and minute-long conversations have, instead, taken up our time. Our teachers are struggling to find a balance between giving their students the time and space they need and getting through the curriculum to prepare them for the next school year. Satisfaction from online communication makes the situation even more unfortunate: everything our school, administration and staff is doing just doesn’t feel the same. This is the “new normal.” Except this “new normal” is miles away from the school system we used to know. As encouraging and freeing as this time is, it’s also robotic, monotonous, desolate.
Undoubtedly, a large facet of school culture is the engagement and social interaction, so much so that we rely on it to get ourselves through the long and strenuous day. But in the time of COVID-19, extended periods of quarantine have stripped students across the globe of this essential part of their educational journeys. According to ChildTrends.org, socialization is a key element in the social and emotional growth of children between the years of 14-18, stimulating cognitive responses and skill construction. For people who don’t have that, it can result in a severe lack of social confidence, empathy, and intimacy present in their character, and hinder their overall social competency and behavioral tendencies.
Notably in WW-P, where our student body is known to be under significant amounts of stress and pressure, these interpersonal relationships become all the more important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for our school population. As a high school with heavy student involvement in a myriad of after school and extracurricular activities, having those opportunities snatched away so abruptly without replacement has drastically impacted, and will continue to impact, the people here at North.
School provides the substantial and necessary interpersonal opportunities that we need in order to progress in our social and intellectual development. For many, school is all we have. Still, this question remains: without the full experience, where do we find a replacement for the biggest communicative outlet in our lives?
And the answer is that the responsibility is on us to create the change we want to see.
Calhoun Community College is just one of many campuses taking action in bringing a sense of normality back to students’ lives. Through the planning of two separate online movie nights, the Student Services Team at Calhoun have made it a primary initiative to bring social engagement to student’s college experiences, both on and off campus. Columbia University, sitting in the epicenter of a city struggling from the risks of a global pandemic, is also creating ambitions and opportunities for their attendees. Workshops on sleep, healthy eating, and mental health are just the beginning of resources they are providing. Additionally, weekly newsletters and Zoom call links shared to their entire school’s population shed light on similarly important issues and accommodate the needs for their virtual college-goers who need them the most.
Students at Livingston High School, located in North Jersey, are just one of many victims of the harsh realities and effects that COVID-19 has brought for them. The cancellation of annual rites of passage, including their prom and graduation, didn’t stop Livingston students from staying positive while social distancing. With the help of their school’s TV and Video Production staff and team, Livingston was able to host their first virtual prom, undeniably bringing smiles to students stuck at home.
E-learning has definitely come with its fair share of disadvantages and complications, but what’s important to understand is the obligation each and every one of us have in maintaining an enjoyable and productive school environment. Something as simple as a movie stream, virtual club meetings, or a game night is enough in order to remind our students that we care and that we’re there for them. Pushing administration and our student leaders to take on these projects is just the first step in maintaining our school spirit and bettering our district’s experience during this difficult time. It is only through this support and creative implementation that our community will begin to see light in this time of darkness, and when our kids will be able to shape their “new normal” into something beautiful.
Our staff at The Knightly News hopes that you and your family are staying safe! If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out.