The Pilots and Finales

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With the recent closure of New York City schools this past Wednesday, Stuyvesant’s current learning model is, fortunately, largely unaffected, as most students have been adjusting to a fully remote program since September. What’s more, students across all grades have bought into virtual instruction, and most, if not all, students are attending classes daily. The vast majority of students are turning on their cameras and actively paying attention and participating in classes. Teachers have also been flexible with teaching remotely, employing different educational platforms and modes of online learning. While we are very fortunate that students and teachers alike have been taking the academic side of school extremely seriously, most of us have lost the socialization that is present in an average day in the school building.

Though all grades are undoubtedly impacted by this struggle, the class of 2024 has been especially hard-hit. Though some freshmen came into Stuyvesant with a cohort of peers from their middle schools, a significant portion of the freshman population did not. In a normal school year, the first months are filled with many opportunities for freshmen to create friendships. Larger events like the Big Sib-Little Sib picnic and dance, as well as smaller interactions—like walking up the escalator with a friend after class—afford such possibilities. In a remote setting, however, these opportunities are far and few in between. For more introverted students, it can seem intimidating to suggest a call or even message to a classmate. The lack of a student government has exacerbated this problem: the Freshman Caucus presidents were elected only on November 16, leaving hundreds of hundreds of students without leaders to organize events for the first two months of remote schooling.

Seniors, though in the opposite position of freshmen, are facing similar struggles. In the final season of the television show that is the Stuyvesant student experience, many seniors were looking forward to a last hurrah—showing up to school in pajamas, wearing pink on October 3 (preferably a Wednesday), and sharing the stress of college application season. Instead, they have found themselves losing friendships with those who haven’t remained in close touch. The few moments of spirit that Stuyvesant students possess—from promposals to senior spirit days—have further diminished in the virtual environment, ultimately missing the closure of the long-anticipated senior finale.

More broadly, socialization has been a struggle for students across all grades. One of the best parts of a Stuyvesant day is the small interactions between classes filled with a sense of fun spontaneity. Whether that means a wave in the crowded hallways or a shared laughter about the difficulty of a test, instances like these are meaningful and allow students to interact with many of their peers. But most of these interactions are between casual acquaintances. It is difficult to maintain such casual friendships in a remote environment. As a result, students may find themselves remaining within their insular friend groups because they ultimately don’t have a practical reason to have a conversation with those not in their classes or in their already well-established friend group. Still, one silver lining of this situation may be that many students are learning to appreciate being by themselves—and the ability to truly be alone without checking for an e-mail or text message is a valuable one. This realization, however, does not diminish the overwhelming decrease in socialization that many students have struggled with these past months.

Still, socialization during the age of remote learning is far from impossible. Keeping in touch through video-calls and occasional in-person meetings (if safe and distanced) are sure to boost morale and rekindle some much-needed Stuyvesant spirit. Furthermore, though it might be intimidating for freshmen (and all students, for that matter), reaching out to a classmate, perhaps under the guise of homework help, might spark a larger friendship. More often than not, that peer will also be looking to make a new friend.

As students in a rigorous specialized high school, it is not surprising that our academics have remained a priority through remote learning. Though academic engagement is undoubtedly commendable this year, we must also commit to maintaining the social aspects that are just as important to a high school experience. COVID-19 has already shaped many parts of our lives in recent months. By taking initiative, we can minimize its impact on the new social dynamic of this virtual environment.