Can’t Resist the Minutes Gifts

Minutes: a classic for Stuyvesant English classes. Here’s a peek into some of the greatest Minutes gifts ever given.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Minutes has been a long time tradition in Stuyvesant’s English classes. Before the start of every class, a student presents “Minutes,” a summary of the prior lesson, to refresh the class on discussion and familiarize students who were absent. English teachers have kept this practice exciting by requiring students to bring in a gift, which tends to be the part of Minutes everyone looks forward to. However, many students agree that picking a gift is the hardest part of doing Minutes: it’s your time to impress your peers with a special talent or passion through a simple (or not so simple) gift. While the recitation of Minutes may not necessarily be memorable, some gifts have left a lasting impression on students.

The most memorable gifts, such as dances to meme music, tend to make the whole class laugh. Junior Arshan Pervez remembered another student’s impromptu gift, as he had forgotten to prepare one for his Writing to Make Change class taught by Ms. Thoms. “My teacher made him perform a dance symbolizing finals week over a trap remix of Jingle Bells,” Pervez said. “He utilized props, like a desk, and great acting to represent taking a test while under time pressure.”

Senior Ivan Lam had a similar experience in his English class. “My friend did a dance to the Wii theme song in freshman year,” he said.

Tier lists are also a comedic gift, giving the common Minutes gift idea to recommend books or movies an unusual twist. Pervez recalled students presenting slideshows ranking condiments, colleges, and balls as Minutes gifts in the same class.

Other gifts reference what the class is learning about. Senior Kaley Liu explained that after her class finished a book that ended with the post-World War II baby boom, she brought in a pack of 40 small plastic babies to give to each classmate. While the connection to the curriculum’s book may have been loose, it certainly got a laugh from the class. “I still think about my ingeniousness to this day,” she said jokingly in an e-mail interview.

Some Minutes gifts can start trends and inspire other classmates to give similar gifts. In Mr. Staley’s European Literature class, a student started a Minutes trend by bringing in a small tree. “The teacher said he could put it wherever, so it’s in the middle of the room,” sophomore Petra Dijur recalled. “Other people started bringing plants, so there’s just a mini forest there now.” In room 833, there are five plants currently clustered in the center of the classroom.

A couple of students go above and beyond for their Minutes gifts, some even spending weeks preparing them. Lam once filmed a music video based on “Macbeth,” the play he was reading in European Literature, and showed it to his class. “It was a parody of BTS’s ‘DOPE,’” he said. “I changed the lyrics to match the story, and then I sang it.” Lam recruited his friends for help to film the storyline of the book at Stuy and edit everything to create a four-minute video. It took him two weeks to complete the project. “It was worth it,” he added. “[My teacher] probably gave me a good grade for Minutes.”

Many students take advantage of the opportunity that Minutes provides, hoping to share something with the class that can brighten their day and teach them something. For one Minutes gift, senior Katherine Lake baked lamingtons, an Australian dessert made from sponge cake, chocolate, and shredded coconut. “I really loved doing that because it’s fun [and] tastes great, and it was just expressing a part of myself that was really important,” she explained.

Lake recalled a student with a similar idea who brought in bubble tea, preparing giant containers and cups to serve the entire class. Students have been able to share foods and drinks they love with the rest of the class, not only giving them a treat to get through the school day but also introducing them to something they may not have had before.

However, for some students, Minutes isn’t an especially enjoyable experience. But since it’s mandatory, they do their best. Despite not being too eager to share, an anonymous alum showcased their skills and expressed themselves by performing a song for their English class: “I don’t remember a lot about Minutes gifts. I tried to avoid them as best as I could, [but] I played a song on a melodica.”

Minutes is still an assignment and, for some students, an extra burden. Thus, it isn’t always a student favorite. “I always will get the initial sense of dread if I do get a class that requires Minutes, because it’s a little stressful to have to plan for a gift,” Liu said.

An anonymous senior agreed over an e-mail interview: “There’s pressure to not give a boring gift that makes it a lot harder than I think it should be.”

Junior Julia Lee added that Minutes is extra work for students who are already busy with other classes’ homework: “It’s just extra homework, because you have to write stuff and make a gift.” She also mentioned that the practice itself is only useful for those absent the day before.

Even Lake, who loves the opportunity Minutes gives, acknowledges that it can be a lot for students who have other things to be worried about. However, she still finds the Minutes tradition special and meaningful. “It can be seen as just an extra task that’s frustrating, and I understand that it’s extra homework, [...] but I feel like what’s really important to remember is that you have the chance to bring joy and laughter to the classroom,” Lake said. “You have two to three minutes of everyone’s full attention, and there’s so much you can do with that.”