Reflecting on my Virtual Senior Year

As this unique 2020-2021 academic year comes to a close, Bronx Science seniors look back on what they missed about in-person learning, and what they loved about online classes, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Enza Jonas-Giugni

A cherry tree blooms in the Spring, reminiscent of the trees which bloom in the Bronx Science courtyard.

When March 2021 fades into April 201 and the season of Spring fully takes hold, the trees in the Bronx Science courtyard erupt in soft pink petals and vibrant fuchsia hues. The first time that I saw the flowers, I was scrolling through Instagram, admiring them through my phone screen. It was the week after Spring Break during my ninth grade year, and I was on medical leave from school. 

I gazed at photo after photo of students clumped together during lunch time, clutching styrofoam boxes filled to the brim with oily fries from Ned’s. I would not be returning to those familiar food trucks, or the grass-covered courtyard until the following fall. Letting my fingers absentmindedly uncurl, I relinquished my glowing phone with its images of a far-off high school idyll onto my bed sheets. 

I lay there for a while afterwards, wrestling with my emotions, semi-conscious of the sensation of my phone pressing against my side. I had never experienced springtime at Bronx Science before, and yet, I missed it as though it were something I clearly remembered. 

In my mind, it was perfect: sunny skies and warm weather would displace stress, deadlines, and a lack of sleep. I mourned the halcyon days that I never had, a figment of aureate-tinted vignettes fabricated by my imagination. 

The following year, when I stood beneath the blossoming trees in person, I was somewhat disillusioned. I loved the way that the magnolias cast hazy shadows on the grass, providing shade as my friends and I shoveled down veggie quesadillas and diluted coffee from Jays. 

But when the bell rang, there were still chemistry pop-quizzes and looming DBQ deadlines awaiting me. The history wing hallways were still more crowded than the four train at rush hour. And waking up to 75℉ weather did not make my 6 a.m. alarm any less startling. 

This imperfect reality is what I remind myself of on days when I distinctly feel the absence of in-person senior benches and in-person Spork Wars, waving to the acquaintance who lent me a calculator for a math test that one time, congregating in front of friends’ lockers in the morning, and having to punch in my assigned 9-digit code whenever I forget my student ID. 

It is what I focus on when I miss taking mirror selfies in the second floor bathroom, waving to Ms.Tracy, School Aide, in the cafeteria during a free period, or seeing the rows of silver trays lined up for Big Bronx. I find myself envisioning a glorified version of the senior year that I never had in person, a year filled with the memories that I will never get to experience again, or memories that I never got to experience in person at all.

For Samama Moontaha ’21, “the greatest misfortune of having a virtual senior year is that I didn’t get the to provide a proper goodbye to my high school career,” she said. “For years, I looked forward to spending my senior year with the friends whom I made and the teachers who supported me, in the same halls where I was beginning to discover who I was.”

“This was the year where I convinced myself that academics absolutely should not and would not be the only thing on my mind,” Moontaha continued. “Instead, I wanted to focus on experience, using this last year to fully encapsulate all that I’ve learned about being a high school student and the memories that picked me up at my lowest moments. Only then, I believed, would I be satisfied with the way that I was moving on from this stage of my life.”

Montana Lee ‘21 finds herself missing the small things, like “fooling around with friends in-class or at lunch, and meeting new people.” With a class size of around 740 students per grade level, students at Bronx Science often expect to continue making friends, even in their final year of high school. The inability to engage in small talk with peers on a Zoom call makes the process of getting to know each other better one that is practically impossible. 

Lee also noted how she had seen how her “senior friends would get really heated over Assassin” over the years. “I remember looking forward to feeling that enthusiasm and camaraderie while being invested in something other than academics,” Lee wrote. 

While no one expected to have a virtual senior scream or eat pancakes during Senior Brunch while staring at their friends on gallery view in Zoom, many seniors in the class of 2021 express unforeseen upsides of switching between synchronous and asynchronous instruction. 

Juliet Daniel ’21 enjoys how the flexibility of asynchronous instruction has allowed her to “pick up so many old hobbies, from dancing, and journaling, to reading,” she said. “I’ve been able to go on walks almost every day since last summer, cook way more, and spend a lot more time with my grandmother.”

Having the agency to choose how she spends her time has helped Daniel to feel less stressed this year in comparison to previous years at Bronx Science. “I have been feeling plenty of other feelings, such as the occasional bouts of helplessness at the state of our world,” Daniel clarified, “but in terms of school-induced stress, it’s significantly lower.”

Moontaha agrees that having more free time has been extremely beneficial, allowing her to develop a marketable skill that she would not have learned otherwise. “I was so much more productive with my life because there were so many more hours in the day to simply get work done, even if I decided to sleep in (something I wouldn’t dare to do on a physical in-school day),” Moontaha said.

“I always wanted to commit time to studying Adobe Creative Cloud to learn how to professionally edit [videos], and I finally got to sit down and do exactly that with virtual school,” she added. “Not only am I so proud of my creative work, but I was able to put my newfound skill into great use, especially during a time where the whole world was relying on virtual creativity.”

Like Daniel and Moontaha, I was surprised by the transformative power of newfound leisure time. Being able to sleep until 9:00 a.m. instead of 6:00 a.m., make homemade pickled onions for my daily bagel, and read Sally Rooney novels during asynchronous periods imbued me with a sense of tranquility that I did not know I could possess. It made me happy to be able to take walks along the Hudson River with friends on a school night, and learn how to properly brew loose oolong in a clay teapot. 

A few weeks ago, during a brief interlude between school Zoom classes, it dawned on me that the Magnolia trees at school are probably in bloom right about now. The sun was filtering through the slats on my blinds, illuminating filaments of dust. My mouse was hovering over the abstract letters and symbols which would soon transport me to Zoom English class. 

But it was not time yet I had a few seconds to myself before I had to click the link. I looked towards my window and sat for a moment. The trees outside my window were beginning to burst with nascent green buds, a tangible manifestation of the passage of time. It was then that I realized, that this year too, I would miss the flowers.

“I’ve been able to pick up so many old hobbies, from dancing, and journaling, to reading. I’ve been able to go on walks almost every day since last summer, cook way more, and spend a lot more time with my grandmother,” Juliet Daniel ’21 said. 

 

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