As the school year draws to a close, I cannot help but reflect on my experiences as a part of the Willis Hall Herald. It has been two years of interviews, articles, late nights, and final edits. Working on such a small staff has taught me many things, including the important lesson that it is alright to fail at something. It is what you do after a missed deadline or sparse interview that matters the most.
Being on staff has been one huge learning experience, even this year as I am editor in chief. Even if I think I know all there is to know about publication or writing, I learn something that shifts my perspective to be slightly wider. People often think of the newspaper as being rigid or too full of facts to have any creativity or opinion, that is not the case. A large part of the Herald is creative — political cartoons, opinion pieces, and even editorials. Though we are grounded in fact, I have learned that the best issues are compelling past that.
Over these two years, I have covered many stories, from major staff changes to spirit week. I have interviewed Harvard professors, immigration lawyers, and politicians. Though these are very impressive people, what I appreciate most about running these stories is that I help to record pieces of North Cross history. This year, we have covered the ambitious renovations and the Legacy campaign, every school dance, coronavirus, North Cross’ east Asian expansion, and stories of individual students.
To be a part of something with such a stories history is a privilege, one that I am unendingly grateful for. Even with the changes we had this year — construction, faculty coming and going, distance learning — the Herald has been there through it all. I hope that the legacy of this paper continues long after I am gone, and I hope that there will always be students to take on the mantle and write as much as they can on their teachers, their classmates, and their community. The time we spend here may be fleeting, but all that we learn will last us a lifetime, and it would be a disservice not to capture it all.
With a student body as diverse as Noth Cross, it comes as no surprise that their hobbies and interests during quarantine are just as varied. In response to a survey sent by the paper, hobbies range from immersion in Japanese culture to gardening. Students have also been cooking, cleaning, writing short stories, journaling, painting, working out, playing guitar, and sewing. The most common answers, perhaps unsurprisingly, were that students took this time to sleep, watch Netflix, and eat.
When asked about their feeling about the transition to distance learning, responses were decidedly mixed. Students appreciate having more free time, flexibility, the lack of a dress code, and short classes, but others say they like nothing about it or that it is not the best for them.
Though most take quarantine seriously now, many admit that they did not follow stay at home orders with due diligence at first. Only 16.13 said they followed the government’s stay at home order, while just under 50% said they went outside rarely but practiced social distancing and/or wore a mask. 19% reported to going outside frequently but social distancing and 3% reported to ignoring all government orders.
Most students agree or strongly agree that distance learning has been more challenging than in person, with only only three people disagreeing.
“At the beginning it was fine and I actually found myself being more productive, but now that we’re basically almost done with school, doing projects is becoming laborsome,” said one respondent.
Others say it depends on the class and the teacher, which is backed up by the results of another question.
“It varies from class to class, for some classes the work has become easier and others harder, then it also depends on the teacher and the workload.”
Ten students said science was most enjoyable in quarantine, while seven preferred English, six enjoyed their electives, and four liked their math classes. The answers varied when directed at AP students, but there was similar variation and distribution across all questions.
By Tobi Bankole
Over a Zoom call, Yazmeen Imam ‘20 shares her experiences with distance learning due to COVID-19.
“I had absolutely no idea how it was all going to work going into it, but I didn’t think that it would be so challenging,” she said.
Imam is a senior with five AP classes and numerous other extracurriculars, so she finds it somewhat difficult to adjust to doing everything online.
“Zoom and Google Classroom aren’t as bad or inefficient as I thought they would be, but there are definitely problems. But it’s only the first week, so we’re doing all this for the first time.”
Imam also did not realize the toll that working on her laptop for so long would take.
“My back definitely hurts a lot more than usual,” she said, laughing. “And it’s really hard to focus all day when you don’t really move or interact with people. We have to stay muted on Zoom, so you can’t really talk to anyone.”
Imam thinks that the change is affecting how much she’s able to retain in class.
“It’s been a big change for teachers, too,” she said. “A lot of mine have had to change their lesson plans or the way they teach the whole class. Like in biology, we do modules and online learning things instead of as many lectures because the class is really big. And all the AP exams are really different this year, so everyone has to think about that too. No one’s really sure what to do.”
In their most recent announcements, AP exams have become open book and 45 minutes long, which is a significant departure from the three hour long format they have had for decades. Teachers have to scramble to restructure their lesson plans for enough review of the smaller number of topics the tests will cover and the newly revised schedule for the exams, which will be taken online.
However, though all the turbulence, Imam combats the fatigue and restlessness by going on walks by her house, baking, reading, and watching TV.
“I’ve been making a lot more food like donuts and brownies since quarantine,” she said. “I’ve also just been reading and watching shows more. I think taking a lot of breaks definitely helps if I feel like I’ve been in the same place for too long.
Imam also considers the wider impact her distancing has.
“There’s a pandemic going on, so we all have to play our parts, you know? If I can help stop the spread by staying at home and being responsible it feels a little better.”
Imam and her family, who frequently travel, are seeing the impacts of COVID-19 firsthand.
“My parents just came back from a trip to New York, and they’re staying in a separate part of the house for two weeks. They managed to leave before everything exploded, but you can never be too careful.”
As a senior, Imam has a unique perspective on COVID-19. She’s missing the senior dinner, the senior trip, fat pencil awards, graduation, prom, senior privileges, and countless other senior traditions that she has looked forward to for over a decade.
“I was definitely really sad at first,” she said when asked how she felt about missing these rites of passage. “But in some ways this senior year is a lot more memorable. And when all of this is over, hopefully we’ll get to pick up where we left off.”