By Helen Hertz '24
For the past two months I’ve watched as my classmates have become comfortable enough to take off their masks, and go back to “normal,” as so many people like to say.
But what is normal anymore?
This might seem like a silly question, because of course “normal” is a world where people don’t cover half their faces, or avoid close contact, or create events around certain sets of rules. “Normal” isn’t even being entirely cautious with our health.
So I guess with that out of the way, my next question is; How does one return to a “normal” they never knew in the first place?
All of the adults I’ve spoken to lately have begun to encourage me to begin my “teen experience” now that COVID seems to have hit a slow patch. What the “teen experience” is to them I’m sure is much different than the modern “teen experience”, but nonetheless, how can I live a life that seems so different from the one I’ve lived for two years of my life?
I find a strange comfort in wearing a mask. I like the fact that people are more cautious with their health. I like that I’ve barely gotten sick over the past two years.
There are so many things I’ve liked about my lifestyle since March 2020, and I’m not sure how jumping off the deep end into a post-COVID world will sit with me.
I’m not going to throw statistics in your face about COVID’s effects on teenagers’ mental health, because as much as I’d like to, I’d like this to feel more like an honest discussion about what our futures look like than spewing information to prove a point.
Because adjustments are hard. Especially complete changes to one’s lifestyle.
I go to the grocery store now and I’m the only one wearing a mask anymore, I still turn down invitations to hangout with my friends because I don’t want to be in packed public spaces, and I still make an effort to keep my circle small, just in case one of them gets COVID.
I’ve gotten so used to doing these things that I look at pictures of myself in school from two years ago, and I don’t even remember what my “normal” life was like.
I know people are eager to live their lives. I know students are excited to have a normal prom, a normal graduation, and a normal summer. But maybe there is a way we can live those experiences to the fullest without becoming overwhelmed by a sudden surge of “normal.”
This transition period from “COVID life” to “after COVID life” isn’t going to be easy.
So I’ve created a list of things I suggest we as a community try and do, to be a little more careful with ourselves, as we adjust to a “normal” we haven’t lived for a while.
First, let’s try to be more sensitive to people who are going through the adjustment process.
I’ve been seeing a lot of pressure on students lately to completely dive into school-wide events, assemblies, and ceremonies. We’ve previously had a lot of Zoom options, but as of late the general consensus seems to be to lead everyone directly back into the large crowded rooms that are full of people.
Going from a 20 student classroom for assembly, to the entire upper school in the auditorium can be daunting. In being more sensitive to those who would like to slowly move their way to the auditorium, keeping Zoom in at least one classroom a morning can be a huge help.
Secondly, we as a community should both try to understand students who continue to wear masks, as well as be understanding of students who have chosen not to wear masks.
I’ve been hearing quite a bit of cross talk about students and their mask wearing status, when the truth is, we have no idea why they either don’t wear a mask, or still wear a mask.
Students who don’t wear masks might finally feel comfortable enough to not wear one to school. Students who still wear masks to school might have a reason to wear one we don’t know about, an elderly relative to protect, a sickly family member or friend whose immune system is weak, or they might just prefer to wear one for their own health.
We are a mask optional school. We should be comfortable with mask wearers, and non-mask wearers.
Last but not least, we should understand that when students do adjust to “normal”, it doesn’t mean they will necessarily possess the energetic, outgoing, and extroverted “North Cross” attitude that people have come to expect from the students.
With all this talk about “going back to normal”, I think we forget that “normal” looks different for everyone. One kid’s normal could be a quiet day, and another’s could be an energy-packed, high strung, chaotic day.
We need to expect and cater to both. As a school it is our job to make sure all students feel welcome, regardless of what their “normal” is.
We aren’t a community without different people. We aren’t a community without different opinions. Therefore, we shouldn’t be a school without options.
by Helen Hertz '24
Dr. Daniel Hood arrives as a former theater arts student turned high school history teacher.
Hood moved frequently in his childhood. Bouncing from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, eventually ending up in Greensboro, North Carolina for middle and high school.
Hood attended the Weaver Academy for Performing & Visual Arts, a magnet school in Greensboro attended by students interested in pursuing or experiencing artistic careers. Hood specifically went for theater, performing in plays and musicals.
“We liked to think of ourselves as the school from Fame,” Hood said. “We were definitely not that cool.”
Though he attended a vastly artistic school, Hood’s favorite subject has been history since AP World History his sophomore year.
“It was basically love at first sight,” Hood said. “My teacher was just amazing.”
Along with having a general love for in-school history, Hood had the chance to study abroad in England for the fall semester of sophomore year in high school. Hood’s father led the program, which was essentially “homeschooling” but not anywhere near Hood’s home.
The semester was very interactive with the history Hood was learning.
“What he would do is; ‘Oh you’re studying the ancient Greeks? Let’s go to the British museum and look at all their stuff!’,” Hood says, “I didn’t fully understand how lucky I was.”
Growing up Hood was surrounded by teachers. His mother being a minister, or spiritual teacher, and his father being a teacher. Hood says he has “always had the inclination” of being a teacher for this reason.
“It was really in high school and college when I learned my preferred method of studying was teaching,” Hood said. “I kinda felt it was my calling.”
After graduating high school Hood attended Guilford College, a small liberal arts college. Hood received his bachelor's degree with a double major in history and political science in 2011.
“Everyone was like, ‘Oh you’re going to law school?,” Hood said, “And I had to say ‘No I’m not!’”
After graduating from Guilford, Hood studied at Boston College, where he got his master’s and Ph.D. in 2020. The whole process took about nine years, with Hood’s total schooling being about 25 years long.
“Now I’m back in school,” Hood said, joking. “Just on the other side of the desk.”
Hood teaches A.P. World History, Modern World History, and a section of U.S. Government.
Hood has been given a tentative go-ahead on teaching next year’s A.P. European History. Though it is not yet set in stone, it could be possible with enough willing participants.
The possibility of starting or helping with extra-curricular activities has also crossed Hood’s mind.
“I kinda want to start a board game club,” Hood said. “I love the way that board games can teach cooperation and multi-level thinking.”
Hood is still getting the lay of the land, so nothing is happening yet, but an idea is the first step.
The most rewarding part of Hood’s job are the students, he says.
“From where I stand at the front of the room I get to see that light-bulb moment,” Hood said. “It fills my heart with joy to see that.”
Surprisingly enough, Hood’s first year nerves also involve the students. Going from a college setting where information is taught at a much faster pace, to a high school is an adjustment.
“I’m having to ‘chunk it,’” Hood said. “I can’t expect high schoolers to work like a sponge and soak up a ton of information in 80 minutes.”
Hood’s method of teaching he describes as “exuberant and intelligent chaos” and “a work in progress.”
Outside of school Hood enjoys a variety of things. Particularly video games, watching TV, and reading.
“I am a sucker for strategy games,” Hood said. “When I’m not working I’m playing video games or watching TV.”
Hood’s love for screens has become a running joke for his wife and friends, during a particular moment involving many screens at the same time.
“It was not a good look,” Hood laughs.
A current favorite show for Hood is Ted Lasso, a sports dramedy on Apple TV.
“It’s super heartwarming,” Hood says, “and it doesn’t shy away from issues, but deals with them in a really human way.” He also praises the show for the breaking of masculine stereotypes and the rejection of pitting women against each other.
Hood also just recently moved to Roanoke, so he is also getting to explore a new city and place of living.
“I’d love to get out to Roanoke more,” Hood said. “I’d love to go to the museums, or have brunch downtown some weekend.”
This year for Hood brings new challenges, bright possibilities,long with a realization of his new-found love for teaching this age.
“There’s something really cool about this age,” Hood said., “To be allowed to be a part of helping kids find themselves is exciting.”
Hood’s current long term goal is to keep teaching, he is starting off his first year “on the right footing.”
“I couldn't ask for a better set of students, a better set of colleagues, a better place to come for my first year of teaching.”
by Helen Hertz '24
As we near our second year anniversary of COVID-19 in the U.S., somehow, the general thoughts of our government seem to be the same; “How can we continuously value the economy over our citizens?” While this question almost sounds sarcastic, it is unfortunately a serious question.
The most recent occurrence was December 27, 2021, when the CDC (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) cut isolation time for contracting COVID-19 in half. This update was still released even after the discovery of a new COVID variant, omicron. While omicron is thought to be a tamer and less worrying variant to contract, this is not necessarily the case. According to World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, "While omicron does appear to be less severe compared to delta, especially in those vaccinated,”said Ghebreyesus, this “does not mean it should be categorized as 'mild’.”
The idea that a variant of a deadly virus is not that big of a deal, does nothing to assure the safety of the elderly and immune-compromised. Two groups of people whose immune systems would have a challenging time fighting against any sicknesses.
The CDC’s new guideline of five-day quarantine, has some even more interesting rules to follow afterwards. After your five-day quarantine is up, you are free to go as you please, as long as you are not showing severe symptoms. “What are severe symptoms?”, you might ask? Severe symptoms include only a fever. Your fever must be gone for 24 hours before you return to your normal life. The last guideline is to wear a mask around others for five days after your quarantine ends.
This applies regardless of vaccination status. The unvaccinated, even though they have a higher positive test rate, are bound to the same guidelines as the vaccinated.
My absolute favorite part of these guidelines are that no negative test is required to return to the outside world. If that seems crazy, it’s because it is.
A negative test is everything. According to an article in the Houston Methodist: Leading Medicine, supported by Dr. Joshua Septimus, the medical director, says a person with COVID can be contagious for 10 days afterwards. Which is what the original quarantine period was, if you are following along.
The alarming part of this situation is that for an additional five days, someone’s parent, sibling, grandparent, or friend could contract the virus. The very same virus that has killed roughly 854,000 and infected 61.4 million in the U.S. alone.
I’m no scientist, which is probably clear in my simplistic explanation of guidelines and safety codes, but I do know enough to realize the CDC cares increasingly more about one thing: the economy.
CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said in an interview with NPR that not only was the quarantine shortened due to scientific evidence, but also to “keep the critical functions of society open and operating.” She is referring to the national shortage of workers in retail jobs and hospitals. Which sounds counterintuitive, because more sickness = even less workers to do their “critical function” for society.
Workers are not disposable, and they cannot be expected to battle off a sickness that attacks even those in the best health. Especially when many of the workers in “essential” jobs interact with those with compromised immune systems and the elderly.
So the CDC’s question is answered. The way you continue to value the economy over human lives is by simply pretending that COVID is disappearing. When in reality, it is spiking.
My specific encounter with COVID is about as maddening as it gets.
Last week, my mother tested positive. She wears her mask in every space necessary, covering all the right places, and has never put herself in the position to be exposed. However, my mother is an educator, and it was quite frankly bound to happen eventually.
She has continued to test positive, ever since last Thursday. However, since her five days are technically up, and she is not symptomatic (aka no fever), her school required her to return to work. If she does not return to work, she will no longer be paid. However, if she does return, she runs the risk of infecting someone else.
My mother has to return to work. She cannot afford to stay at home. Especially being the only adult in the house with a day-to-day job. She is responsible for a mortgage, multiple cars, four children, and every single bill that comes her way. If there was a 10 day period of quarantine, which has not yet passed, she could very well be negative, and not have to worry about infecting a student or co-teacher.
The argument that some would make is that she could still test positive for up to 90 days. But to me it isn't the positive test that worries me. It’s the fact that she could still spread the virus, following Dr. Septimus’ claim.
This is just one example of thousands, but my personal experience with the CDC’s new guidelines have further enlightened me to the fact that the CDC simply does not care about people like my mom.
The CDC is still a part of the government, and just as driven to economic success as the other government agencies. If teachers like my mom don’t go back to work as soon as possible, they are just another statistic on a page of understaffed places of work.
My mother is not a statistic to me. She is my source of food, housing, and joy. It is extraordinarily difficult for a teacher like her, to not be able to care for her own sickness, and also worry about the lives of her students whom she values.
I leave you with this - the CDC, whether you support their new guidelines or not, do not model the realistic life of a real American worker. There is no way a successful economy can rise, if these guidelines continue to simply ignore the severity of COVID, and treat it as if it is a fading problem.
Our second year of COVID may not be our last. Treat guidelines with as much care as possible, and think about the potential person you could be infecting when you step out of quarantine too early.
By Hania Raza
With a passion and interest in journalism and traveling, Helen Hertz ‘24 has been trying to visit every state in America ever since she was 8 years old.
She has already visited 44 states with her family and is trying to travel to every state before she graduates high school. Over the summer, Hertz visited the New England area and only has six more states left to cross off of her list: Hawaii, Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Utah, and Louisiana.
Recalling one of her first visits, she fondly remembered “When I was 8 years old we took a long cross country trip to Nebraska to see some family,” Hertz said, “and we’ve been crossing off states ever since.”
So far she has been to all of the states in New England, visited most of the states on the West Coast, and can cross off the Midwest.
For someone who has visited so many sites and locations, there has to be a favorite.
“My favorite place is probably in Washington, since we go there every year, and I'm so familiar with the area,” Hertz said. “My favorite memory is just hanging out in new places with my cousins and sisters.”
Over the summer, Hertz traveled with Kaeleigh Howlett ‘24, one of her close friends, to North Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina.
“A funny story from the trip was that Helen talked in a high pitched voice for two hours from Charleston back to Myrtle Beach,” Howlett said. “Also, she bought glue-on nails and tried to put them on me, but I took them off in 30 minutes.”
She traveled outside of the country, to a poor and underdeveloped part of Haiti.
“When I was 12, I went to Haiti for a mission trip,” Hertz said. “My old church had a school there that they worked on.”
When she gets older, Hertz wants to visit many other countries to continue her travels and tours around the world because she enjoys traveling. Next year, some students from North Cross will be going on a trip to France during the summer, where, over the course of a week, they will visit many famous cities and sites.
“I’m starting with the French trip I'm taking next summer,” Hertz said, “and sort of extending off of that.”
Along with her interest in travel and tourism, Hertz has a passion for journalism.
“I like to write, I like to read, I like to travel,” Hertz said, “I like to try new things.”
She has been taking journalism since her freshman year, but had developed her interest for it during middle school.
“In middle school we had a little news thing that I would write for sometimes, for fun.”
Hertz believes that a true journalist can make a positive change in social values and norms and can help bring a difference in society.
“Journalism plays every part in society, separating fake news and fake media, and it just delivers,” Hertz said. “That's the perfect way to get information when you need to.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.