When schools were cancelled last week for New York City, many of us felt liberated because the day-to-day hassle of homework and exams disappeared, at least for a week. As a junior in high school, I have realized that time is finite and being an efficient manager of time can sometimes be difficult. However, some of the teachers at my high school, and throughout the country, perceive that we now have unlimited time due to school not being in session.
Remote learning takes place over different platforms, depending on the school and the state. For example, my brother, a high school freshman, is using Google Classroom for his assignments, and his work is made available in addition to his being able to connect to his teachers for office hours. By contrast, we are expected to attend online “classes” at my school from 8:00 am until 12:50 pm. While the day certainly is manageable, and even preferred to our previous schedule where classes spanned from 8am until 3:35 pm, I am finding that I am short on time. In particular, I seem to be unable to get my homework done in a timely fashion, as we are online for hours and then have hours more homework, all while worrying about the health and safety of the outside world, a crashing economy, and our mental sanity.
I feel expected to complete everything, whether it is academic, social, or even just getting in a jog around Central Park. Because of this extra “time” many activities have organized times to “hang out” over Zoom calls. Additionally, our academics are expected to stay “stellar” even though the quality of learning is very different over distance learning. We are missing both academic and social cues and clues, and we are trying to focus in “small” apartments that have been adequate for sleeping, but not studying or working. On top of this, we are expected to stay as active as we initially were because of all of our “extra” time. How do I do aerobics in the living room when we are always told to “go outside” if you want to make noise or jump on the floor? After all, we need to respect the family with the young kids downstairs.
I have noticed the inability to separate my “school” life and my family life over the past few days. What makes Monday different from Tuesday, and what makes Saturday different from Sunday? We walk like small clusters of grapes around Central Park for exercise, making sure to stay in our own lane and in our own quarantine circle. And we watch our plans being cancelled like a house of cards. To compensate, we opened our shades as much as possible, giving us a view of the lifeless world.
Because remote learning takes place over a computer for a number of hours and we have “homework” after, I am spending most of my time in front of a screen,something that we always had been told not to do. The “maximum leisure time” in front of a device should be at most two hours. Instead of talking about our new normal, and about how we might not go back to school this academic year or even have a true summer vacation, we are required to keep track of all of our physical activity (as our grade in gym might be adversely impacted if we fail to do so).
In one of my “go to” songs on my quarantine playlist, Lizzo asks “Baby how you feelin’?” I want my teachers to say “how are you all feeling?” I want to say “feeling good as hell,” but, honestly, I’m feeling a little disoriented. Spring has sprung, and I keep thinking…how do we measure the weeks that go by? Maybe we can use this time to modify our expectations and find our common humanity.