It is March 15th, 2020. Earlier today, while sitting in the car, my family and I heard Governor Cuomo announce on the radio that NYC public schools would be closing, possibly until April 20th, meaning more than a month without school. Upon hearing the announcement, I felt strange, not particularly happy or sad, just in awe that this is what things have come to. While I wanted school to close, for the safety of people more susceptible to the virus, this also meant the cancellation of plenty of things I was looking forward to.
My name is Anjali Temal, and I am a high school senior at the Brooklyn Latin High School. In the days leading up to school closure, there were barely any people in school. Most of my classes were about ⅓ of their normal size. We spoke about the possibility of schools closing, but many of our teachers didn’t think it would happen, because, as my math teacher put it, “it would have to be really really bad.” But it was really really bad. By going to school, students could have been exposed to the virus on their commutes or in the school community, and while they might not show symptoms themselves, they could pass it on to an elderly person, or a person whose immune system was compromised by an underlying condition. These people would have a harder time fighting the virus, and could even die. Based on what I’ve heard, three people in NYC have already passed away due to the coronavirus.
So, it makes sense to me that schools are closed, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. While I’m sure numerous people think that students are all happy and excited to have school closed, this is definitely not the case for everyone, and definitely not the case for me. As a high school senior, I am very involved in my school’s clubs and activities. I am the co-president of a club called History For Action, where we openly discuss the historical parallels to modern day issues in an attempt to create solutions. We were just starting our unit on Police Brutality, a unit I was excited for ever since the school year began. Now, I realize, last Wednesday, I might’ve gone to my last HFA meeting without even realizing it. Since my sophomore year of high school, I’ve participated in Mock Trial Competitions, and now, those will likely be canceled. As a senior, I had high hopes for this year, and I wanted to get farther in competitions than we have before, especially since it’s my last year. I’m also trying to receive the IB Diploma, but now I’ll have to learn IB content virtually, something I’ve never experienced before. I’m not sure if this will impact my understanding and ability to learn. At Brooklyn Latin, we have March Madness, a month of school spirit activities that brings our community together, which will now be postponed. What will happen to senior prom? IB exams? Graduation?
As a high school senior, these changes have come at one of the worst times. One month of school lost not only means one month of classroom learning lost but also one month of time with friends and teachers lost, in the last year we have before we graduate. When we were supposed to be spending time with friends and cherishing our last moments together, we are all cooped up in our homes, practicing “social distancing”.
It’s not the best situation, clearly. The best I can do is be optimistic, to try and see the good in the situation. This quarantine-like situation shouldn’t stop anyone from living, or doing enjoyable things. While there are plenty of downsides, there are equally as many benefits. In many ways, I now have more control over my learning and my health. I’ll be able to get more sleep. I won’t be disadvantaged by my long commute to school and back. I won’t be tempted by fast food as much, and will be able to exert more control of what I’m eating. I’ll be able to learn more independently, which I typically find to be more efficient than classroom learning in most cases(for myself). I’ll be able to spend more time with family, and I’ll have much more time for self-care. Additionally, this flexibility in some way mirrors the flexibility of college, in the sense that I am responsible for staying caught up on my classes and using my time wisely, without teachers’ reminders. I’ll be able to build positive habits that will continue to serve me even after regular school resumes.
So, while this virus brings many changes, good and bad, I am making the active choice to make the best of the situation, and I hope that you do too. I do understand that this is easier for some people than others. My heart goes out to students with toxic households, financial struggles, or lack of internet access. I am extremely privileged to be able to make good from this situation, and there are plenty of people who will struggle during this time. So please check in on your friends and loved ones, remember to tell people you care for them even while “social distancing,” and share resources that can benefit others.
As my IB World Religions teacher would say, “this too, shall pass.”