Let’s be honest. This year has been rough. You’ve heard it everywhere from everyone, and you’ve seen it yourself. We all have witnessed the world turn upside down. Things we take for granted are simply not possible anymore. From visiting relatives, to going out to lunch, to parties on a Saturday night, to Halloween, nothing is truly safe anymore.
Our lives weren’t torn from us like bark can be ripped from a tree, but instead it was comparable to being peeled and cut over time like an onion rolling around in a tumbler with a dull blade. The cuts and bruises have been uneven, multi-layered, sporadic, sudden and individually inconsequential, but continuously, they’re devastating and will never fully heal. It has been more than eight months since we were last together as a school (on March 11) and nothing has been the same since.
Life in quarantine and school on Zoom has been quite different from anything anyone has ever experienced before. Staying at home is a peculiar situation, but also brings a whole new host of possibilities to the world. Quarantine might not be all so horrible, and many others seem to agree. According to an Instagram poll of 163 participants, 91% agree that being quarantined has some other advantages (besides safety). These secret benefits are apparent, and Harvard-Westlake (HW) students have been taking advantage of it.
First, the introduction of online school has been a stress reliever for many students. According to the poll, which asked students what they thought the advantages of online school were, the most popular answer, with 16% of responses, said that students have appreciated the extra sleep they have been getting. According to the American Psychological Organization, teens who sleep more are less likely to report symptoms of stress.
Additionally, Zoom, the medium which we have all learned to use in our classes, has many ups and downs, but one of its main strengths is the inclination for teachers to apply hands-off learning techniques, like worksheets, google docs and videos. Through this physical separation, many students feel a sense of relief knowing that they won’t have to deal with many of the high-pressure situations of assessments and essays at school, but can put in the same hard work from the comfort of their own bedroom.
Beyond Zoom, student schedules at HW have been altered in the 2020-21 school year. In order to address Zoom burnouts happening at the end of last school year, the school removed quarterly no-homework weekends in exchange for each class only meeting four times out of the six-day cycle (instead of the usual five) and increased passing periods to ten minutes from five to allow for students to take a break from their screens in between classes.
The new schedule format has been a humongous help to relieve the stress of students with schedules that have unevenly distributed free time and allowed students to more effectively manage their workload and therefore reduce their stress.
Secondly, life in quarantine offers its largest advantage: time. With the removal of the necessity of daily commutes, the danger and fear of being in crowded areas leading to always staying at home, and activities everywhere being canceled, people are left with one thing: tons and tons of time.
Time is a concept that’s always increasing in value. You can never get time back, and the more you use, the more it’s worth. That’s why when you’re given lots of time like in the current COVID-19 pandemic, possibilities are endless and its potential value is limitless. You can use it to apply yourself to whatever you want. Only you have the independence to choose what you do with your time and make the right decisions.
Some people chose to do very little with their time. They may choose to scroll through TikTok and Instagram, watch Youtube videos, binge Netflix or Hulu shows, or play video games. According to Bill Coleman ‘24, the distractions of constantly being able to use your phone are more apparent than ever.
That’s why it’s so impressive that so many HW students took serious initiative this summer. Some prominent examples I found include: Charlotte Newman ‘24 focused on her diving in preparation for her freshman year on the swimming and diving teams. Kai Do ‘24 took the time to learn seven new piano pieces and made her own online earrings shop. Elise Fried ‘24 learned to paint with watercolors. Danny Liu ‘24 started learning a language. Zoe Kramar ‘24 co-started a HW teacher babysitting club. Victor Lowe ‘24 took the time to get better at surfing. Nikka Gershman-Pepper ‘26 learned how to make virtual music collaborations online for her flute and entered herself into several virtual competitions.
Throughout HW, students have used and are still using the immense amount of time presented to them and have regarded it as an important opportunity which shouldn’t be wasted.
In sum, we can absolutely use this worldwide crisis as a lesson for ourselves and our school. We should make the most of what we have and always look on the bright side. If we keep our eyes open and our priorities straight, we can make the best of any situation.