By: Lena Singh and Brittany Rakhmonova - March 15, 2021
WHAT IS COVID-19
Around late December in China, specifically Wuhan, a virus originated in a seafood market. People were going on about their daily lives, when many started feeling ill. People collapsed on the streets, and were urgently rushed to hospitals. Soon, these numbers were overflowing and hospitals were running out of room and supplies. With what had been a normal time for many in the world, was just the beginning of a worldwide shutdown. Experts quickly got to work and needed answers as simple as: What is going on? News spread, headlines were filled with ‘Scary Virus Flood the Streets’ and ‘Lockdown mandated in China’. American readers, for the most part, did not expect such a tragedy to occur. We continued attending school in person, which at that time wasn’t even a common phrase, and people were in close contact with one another. Going to public places in groups, sharing items, and walking in crowds through the streets Times Square were considered normal. Once tests were available in parts of the world, they slowly revealed how many people got infected and spread the virus with complete ignorance. On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced that all NYC public schools would be shutting down due to the pandemic. In reality, only some understood the severity of such a thing. Others, like us, would never agree that we wouldn’t enter a school building again for more than a year. As an alternative, remote learning began and students, along with teachers, were forced to adapt to this new mode of education. Adults were losing their jobs, while some switched to working from home. This sudden environmental, social, and mental change was something the world was most certainly not prepared to face. Around the globe, over 346,000 deaths and 20 million infections were reported at the end of 2020. Restaurants and gyms all were shut down, bankruptcies and empty shelves of markets became commonplace. As a result of its origin, hate crimes and discrimination targeted the Asian population. And now, we are currently 365 days behind walls and counting…
THE COLORS OF COVID-19
In this day and age, we are living pieces of history in the making. Through COVID, we have learned lessons that will stay with us forever, while being trapped mentally and physically. A long break, that was long overdue, came in a horrific yet relieving way. A way that helped us discover more about ourselves, while chaining us down. Quarantine was filled with its benefits and drawbacks, which comes to the huge issue regarding mental health. There’s always two sides to everything. Some had focused on their health and prioritized themselves. Others could not deal, they felt as if the walls were caving in on them, and that no one could be around to understand them. Social lives halted, the days felt shorter, and the ways of learning altered completely. Around a third of 3,300 students nationally, were “depressed or unhappy and uncertain about the future.” School either became more stressful or it became easier to deal with. Teachers lost the connection with their class and students lost all motivation to succeed. Uncertainty peaked, security vanished, distance increased, and interactions minimalized. Humans are fearful people indeed, we become desperate in such times, but we also unite. The Coronavirus taught us that when we stand together, there is little we cannot do and that nature doesn’t only give warnings but acts on it too. COVID-19 could be pictured as the devastating event in history that paused our busy lives, bringing death and appreciation about us.
COVID HITS THE CLASSROOM
Students all around the world are currently in a battle to continue learning and attending school, all from the comfort of their homes. Teachers all around the world are solving the difficulties around technology and have lost attachment with their kids. For some, school was their ‘sanctuary’. A place to go and communicate with their peers, enhance social skills, and create memories that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the global pandemic has swept us off our feet and locked us in our homes. Quite honestly, we are all losing motivation at such a time. Nothing really encourages students to do or be better, anymore. They lay on their beds or sit by their dinner tables, listening to their teachers or hearing about how they have it easier, for several hours a day. Teachers find it bothersome to stare at black screens, receiving no response to their questions, and help their kids through their issues. Waking up early in the morning and completing the same exact school routine does get tedious. Students feel lonely and as though nobody just seems to get it. However, we have all been there.
- Participating has become frightening, creativity has flown out the window, and extracurriculars have come to a stop.
- Handling connection issues or technology requirements.
- Finishing homework by 11:59pm or a designated time.
- Starting the meeting, handing out classwork, and grading the homework.
- Sleeping through a class.
- The pressure to keep the grades up has subsided a bit and schools or colleges have become more lenient of everyone’s distinct situations.
- Procrastinated an assignment to the hour before its due.
- Blamed online school for not being able to understand the material.
- Too much screen time.
Isn’t there a grey area between black and white? COVID might have us staring at our screens all day, but it has made learning uncomplicated for some, while others may have remained indifferent to the new approach to school.
- School suddenly became self-paced, making it possible for many to actually understand the complex topics of the subject and ask for help via email.
- Online learning enhances self-discipline and self direction; to get the work done.
- Classes only take up a few hours, rather than half your day and there is plenty of time to do the schoolwork.
- For teachers and students living far from their school, there is convenience in staying home rather than commuting.
- The students who aren’t good test takers, don’t have to worry about taking time to prepare for their tests and succeeding, because many subjects have paused testing for now.
- The pressure to keep the grades up has subsided a bit and schools or colleges have become more lenient of everyone’s distinct situations.
COVID: TAKING IT PERSONAL
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” This quote has been wisely said by the infamous musician- John Lennon. All humans do is run. Run towards the future they may or may not have. Instead of focusing on where they are right now, what they have right now. COVID-19 broke us out of that cycle for a while. COVID-19 made us sit in our homes, do nothing, and wait for the time to pass. Social lives ceased, personalities changed, hobbies were developed, and the only job one had to do was make sure their stomach was filled. Teenagers discovered more than they could ever, about themselves in quarantine while some may have suffered through severe depression. Adults may have found it difficult to do nothing, but enjoyed spending time with their children. COVID-19 gave us the time to do the things we never got to do or never seemed to prioritize, all at the cost of lives and businesses.
- Masks should be on at all times in public places, with six feet distancing.
- Elders were separated from their families.
- Anxiety and terror for each other spread.
- Much time was given to enjoying the company of immediate family.
- New talents or activities were picked up (Basketball, baking, dancing, gaming, or reading, etc.)
- Time available for yoga and meditation.
- A long list of TV shows and movies was finally being checked off one by one.
- Social lives resumed over Zoom or Facetime.
- Sleeping habits and physical health either ameliorated or deteriorated.
- Loss of face to face interaction, along with all social skills.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
As terrible as it may seem, quarantine is a time that actually allowed us as people to get a ‘break’ from reality and focus on themselves. Time to develop new hobbies, do the things we love, spend time with those closest to us, and discover the best version of ourselves. In addition, with technology advancing, scientists across the globe have found a way to help get our ‘normal’ lives back. Particularly, three companies are currently distributing vaccines across the nation: Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, and Moderna. According to Biden’s plan, every single American adult is going to be eligible for the vaccine by May 1st. In fact, the U.S has already distributed over 100 million doses of the vaccine and 13% of adults in the U.S are fully vaccinated. As scientists say, the quicker everyone gets vaccinated, the faster everything gets back to normal. Furthermore, places we used to have access to go to like restaurants, movie theaters, and schools are all gradually reopening! Governor Cuomo of New York State has officially announced indoor dining capacities to extend to 50% at restaurants starting March 19th, high schools reopen for in-person learning on the 22nd, and movie theaters can operate at 25% capacity. Although things may not seem to be the same, our daily lives are getting closer to being normal each day. With everyone following state-wide guidelines and simply playing their part, our efforts will be rewarded. Hopefully, we will be able to meet up with our relatives, friends, and classmates face to face within the next few months!
FROM OUR SCHOOL TO YOURS
But first, a few words from our principal Mark Erlenwein:
“It is difficult to find words at time to quantify the measurable and immeasurable impact that COVID-19 has had on all of us. This has been a life changing event on so many levels, and from personal experience, I found myself struggling with the same lifelong challenges that have served as my “kryptonite” for far too long. Throughout the pause, quarantine and the pandemic, COVID… it has its many names… the lack of self-care and buildup of stress and anxiety, has proven to be as tangible a challenge as the virus itself. In the same way an automobile engine shuts down when it has red lined for far too long, our bodies react the same way when we have neglected our own “personal engine” light as well. I have learned how vital it is to do a daily self-check and bring our RPM’s on the tachometer needle into the safe zone. While we feel we can go further, work harder for another minute, is it worth the price of giving up another hour’s sleep, a conversation with a family member, a moment spent enjoying a pastime you felt pleasure in doing? Don’t be ashamed to get help when things get too overwhelming and seem impossible to overcome. Act now! It is completely normal and human to feel this way. Things will get better though. Just make sure to make time for you and make sure you communicate your feelings outward and not just inward. To make space for healing, peace, rejuvenation, and joy.”
We surveyed staff and students at Staten Island Technical High School about how Covid-19 affected them and here are the results:
How has COVID impacted your mental health?
“COVID has made me less motivated and feel isolated. It made me realize how drastically different my life is; that not going to school in-person, is a lot more tragic than it sounds.” -Freshman Duwa Shah at Staten Island Tech
“My mental health and stress levels throughout the months definitely fluctuated. Some days I was so excited to start my day and other times, I was struggling to get out of bed to make it to class on time. College applications were a whirlpool of stress and tension, constantly being trapped inside didn’t make it any better.” -Senior Neha Manchandani at Staten Island Tech
“Sitting at home all day, for weeks and weeks on end, repeatedly doing the same thing everyday did take a toll on my mental health. It made me question if I was doing too much or if I was being super unproductive.” -Anonymous Female Freshman at Staten Island Tech
What are your feelings toward COVID?
“I’d say it was horrific to transition… I was even afraid to go out to the store. Everyone was like: we don’t know! So the uncertainty was really difficult. The positives… It's given me time with my family and I enjoyed that. It slowed down my social schedule. But it shouldn’t have come at the cost of lives, businesses and all of that. At this point, I’m ready for it to be over.” -History Teacher Katherine Palma at Staten Island Tech
“I’d say my experience with COVID was really stressful for obvious reasons: changes in routine, fear of illness, worrying about family, friends, and the students. It also paved the way for new and innovative ways of teaching, which I think is fantastic.” -SAPIS Melissa Leaver at Staten Island Tech
“In a way, it has taught me to be grateful for the little things that I was able to do before COVID. Honestly, I don't think the world is ever going to be the same again, but I hope it is able help us all grow and value those around us, as many have lost loved ones during this time.” -Anonymous Female Freshman at Staten Island Tech
“Despite being more introverted, being in quarantine definitely affected me negatively. I really missed simple things like going out to eat after school with friends, breathing in the fresh air, or even just watching the sunset on my walk home from school. There wasn’t a perfect way to cope, but there were virtual ways to connect with my friends. We planned plenty of movie sessions and of course social media helped us all the same.” -Anonymous Female Sophomore at Staten Island Tech
If and when Covid comes to an end, how will you live your life differently than you did before quarantine? What valuable lessons will you carry with you?
“I treated quarantine like a long break right after it started, but as it kept continuing, it grew into a bad habit. Quarantine has taught me to keep certain expectations for myself when things don’t go as planned. Don’t be so hard on yourself, but also don’t ignore your responsibilities.” -Sophomore Samantha Zhu at Staten Island Tech
“I’m kinda okay now, taking time to myself and slowing down. There are some family members I haven’t been able to see in a year, so it just gives me respect for life itself and how important our community it is… Knowing I can set boundaries and be flexible. Look at the silver lining in all of this, like a challenge to grow from.” -History Teacher Katherine Palma at Staten Island Tech
How did learning/school change for you during this time?
“School and learning changed for me drastically. The courses feel more self-paced rather than taught by the teachers. For example, if I’m having trouble with a topic, instead of questioning the teacher, I question the internet.” -Anonymous Male Junior at Staten Island Tech
“There wasn't a strict environment like being in a classroom that forced me to pay attention and concentrate. However, it was nice that I was able to go to my own pace for certain assignments and I was able to hand them on time because of that.” -Anonymous Female Sophomore at Staten Island Tech
“The amount of effort I put into my work depended on the class and teacher I have. If the teacher does a great job of reassuring us and provides us with a reasonable amount of assignments, I put more effort in schoolwork. But if the teacher overloads us with assignments and projects, I just do them for the grade.” -Anonymous Male Junior at Staten Island Tech
How can your teachers or classmates help you be successful in school at this time?
“The school can help by having the teachers work on making it feel like an in-person learning experience. Many teachers post assignment after assignment and I feel like I’m just completing schoolwork for completion. However, this does not apply to every teacher/class. Some teachers do a very good job of supporting us.” -Anonymous Male Junior at Staten Island Tech
“I definitely think it’s helpful when everyone is understanding and patient with one another. The pandemic is affecting everyone differently and we really don’t know what would be happening in another person’s life.” -Sophomore Talia Lilikakis at Staten Island Tech
“My teachers could help by communicating with us and making sure we're doing well mentally, because this pandemic has really hit everyone in some form or another.” -Freshman Charles G. at Staten Island Tech
How has your social life changed since the start of COVID?
“I wouldn’t say my social life has changed; rather, it’s paused. Typically, I would visit friends in Pennsylvania monthly and since we can’t do that right now, we check in with each other on the phone and video chat. Even with my background in Psychology and full knowledge of coping skills, COVID has been tough. I think it’s important to be gentle with ourselves and allow each other the space to cope with how we’re feeling while knowing that things will be okay.” -SAPIS Melissa Leaver at Staten Island Tech
“Quarantine and the global pandemic has changed my social life immensely. I’m not sure how I’ll act once everything is back to “normal.” Keeping a distance from society took away some of my social skills. I seem more shy now and find it difficult to carry or start a conversation.” -Anonymous Female Freshman at Staten Island Tech
How confident are you that you can give effective instruction in remote learning?
“It depends on the students. If the students want to learn, I believe I can give effective instruction during remote learning. If their camera is off and they are disengaged, it can be very difficult. I always try my hardest and I want what is best for all my students.” -Fitness Teacher Matthew Granite at Staten Island Tech
“My lack of confidence in remote instruction is not the fault of teachers, administrators, or students. My lack of confidence stems from the counterintuitive environment we all find ourselves in. It's like putting a square wheel on a car. How confident am I, that we will have a smooth ride with a square wheel? Not very, because the nature of the vehicle is not ideal for delivering instruction.” -Writing Teacher Patrick Misciagna at Staten Island Tech
How well have the other staff and/or administrators helped make remote teaching or learning easier?
“I have collaborated weekly with other P.E teachers and administrators to make remote learning a bit easier for each other. It is new for all of us and it is nice to gather all information and tips from one another.” -Fitness Teacher Matthew Granite at Staten Island Tech
“Here is where I give kudos to teachers, staff, and admin. The Tech team has done a stellar job trying to make lemonade out of the lemons we have been dealt. Everyone has been compassionate, reasonable, and flexible to make the best out of what we know is not the best situation. That is one of the few silver linings--that the Tech family rallied together to try and make the best ride out of a car with square wheels.” -Writing Teacher Patrick Misciagna at Staten Island Tech
How have you changed as a person over the past year?
“Quarantine was a rollercoaster to say the least. At the start, I was beyond upset that my junior and senior year would be in jeopardy, and I wasn’t able to see the ones that had made a regular impact on my life. Despite all of this though, I truly learned what it meant to be independent. I was able to improve my physical and mental health by really understanding what I needed as an individual.” -Senior Neha Manchandani at Staten Island Tech
“I’ve changed a lot over the past year and a half. My mental health is a lot more stable and I’ve found new hobbies. I’ve been just working on myself. Through this I’ve discovered my sexuality, how to handle stress, and my real friend circle. I’m a lot happier now and I can confidently say that I sincerely love myself.” -Anonymous Female Sophomore at Staten Island Tech
How was the teaching from home experience for you?
“Working from home wasn’t too difficult because I was already using the common technology apps or websites. But it was weird to see all my students online and you had to keep them engaged. Now they weren’t in the classroom, so it was like: who isn’t turning on their cameras, who has connection issues, who is scared or nervous over what’s going on. So it was different to not be able to see my students and I feel like I lost the connection I used to have with them.” -Math Teacher Stephanie Partnow at Staten Island Tech
“This is arguably the area where I feel the most significant impact. There are students whose faces I have hardly ever seen. It's hard to feel connected when you do not sense the energy in the room, the nonverbal hum that rings in a class when we're all thinking together. I think Charles Dickens said it well, "Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true."-Writing Teacher Patrick Misciagna at Staten Island Tech
THE END FOR NOW
According to Nature.com, “Human beings are a social species that relies on cooperation to survive and thrive.” Covid-19, a virus that caused a worldwide pandemic, has most certainly proved to be a trial to our species. Lockdowns caused mental, physical, and spiritual problems to people of all ages. We were detached from social interactions, forced to adjust to new modes of learning, and take proper safety precautions in order to keep us and our loved ones safe. However, as civilized people, it is our responsibility to find solutions against the hardships of this virus. We must put in an enormous effort to remain optimistic, supportive, and get help when needed. Because at the end of the day, we are one race: The human race. And it is our job to be there for each other, even during the most unexpected and preposterous times.
- Melissa.email@example.com (Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Specialist at Tech)
- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-c ovid-spreads.html