Teachers, students and parents have been looking forward to the spring recess for months. Spring break is usually a time to be with family, go to a new destination and mentally prepare for the rest of the school year. However, because of COVID-19, this year is different from all other years: there is no break.
While Mayor De Blasio told teachers to hold off until March 23 with remote learning, many teachers in my school and in other schools throughout the City tried to implement remote learning as soon as they knew that schools would be physically closed. While Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Carranza think that we already had a break, my peers and I were busy doing schoolwork and finishing our assignments. In addition, we were running to grocery stores, trying to find Purell and watching our parents try to save their jobs while the stock market was crashing, and stores were closing. Furthermore, some of my peers are caring for their younger siblings and assisting their older relatives while their parents are at work.
We are grappling with uncertainty, and we have no timeline that is definite. We are unsure when this pandemic will end and when our lives will be “normal” again. We are watching the world change rapidly and masks and gloves have become the new trend. However, the break that has been planned for a year should still be given to us. Teachers, parents and students are tired and stressed, and we need time to readjust to what is happening right now. We switched quickly from classroom learning to various platforms over the computer. We need time to recover and reflect as we are trudging in the desert to find a promised land.
While the Teachers Union announced that we would only have Thursday and Friday of this week off, Mayor De Blasio has decided to continue remote learning over these two days. Some of my Orthodox peers will have no access to electronics over this time. Passover is about retelling the story of how the Jews escaped from slavery, and, during the Seder, we recite each of the 10 plagues. Yet, ironically, we are in the midst of a new plague. We should not have to choose between religion and education. We should be able to celebrate our holidays during this “new normal.”
Passover is a time to come together and celebrate. Being able to “turn off” the computer and reflect as a family, as well as a broader community, should be emphasized during this time of social distancing. Instead, this year, my classmates and I will be alone in front of our computers on Thursday and Friday. We will not have any time to relax, and our increasing mental baggage will have to be stored in the overhead compartment. Even though I am celebrating Passover, the days will be filled with schoolwork, each day just like the previous one. On Wednesday night during my family’s Zoom Seder, we will ask “why is this night different from all other nights?” The night will be different from all other Seders, but the next morning will be the same as every day of this pandemic: I will wake up early in the morning, move my small desk into the common hallway (for reasons of being able to focus), and, at exactly 7:55 am, tell my math teacher that “I am here.” And, although I will say “I am here,” my mind will be far away, as I am feeling like a stranger in a strange land.
Ilana Drake is a junior at the High School for Math, Science, and Engineering in Manhattan.AIR MAX PLUS