Reading and Writing Our Way Forward
Since it's teacher appreciation week, I want to honor the IAL alumni coordinator, Hazel Pina. Though you're not my teacher inside a classroom, you've taught me so much through coaching and mentoring me these past few years. In addition to the work you do with seniors and college students, you make time to coach an entire cheerleading team and help us through hard situations in life. Thank you so much for being the kind of coach that challenges and supports us. I know that I can always count on you to have my back no matter what I am dealing with.
You are one of the most determined and passionate people I’ve ever met. As I reflect on my senior year, I am truly so thankful to have you in my corner. You are the definition of going above and beyond. When it came time to work on my college essay and applications, you didn't think twice about walking me through each step and proofreading all my essay drafts. Even with CO-VID 19, you've consistently checked in to make sure I'm staying on track and keeping my life together. If it wasn't for you, I'd be entirely lost with everything right now. We appreciate you and everything you do for us. #LetsGoTrailBlazers
By Jazlyn Villaman, 8th Grade
With nearly 190,000 confirmed CO-VID19 cases, New York City leads the nation's fight against coronavirus. In March, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio decided to close all public schools until April 20th. Schools should stay closed until we determine what works and what does not. Without a cure available, it's important for students and staff to prioritize health and safety. As we know, schools are hotspots because kids can get sick very easily and spread their germs to others who come from different areas of the city. While school closures will leave some students struggling to do work from home, the decision is good for the longterm and might even prepare you for remote learning tasks in college.
In a recent article by the New York Post, Julia Marsh writes that "the mayor had been still stubbornly repeating his opposition to the move, insisting he was 'very resistant' to shut down the largest school system in the country because of such things as leaving health care and emergency services workers scrambling for child care.” On the other hand, an article in Science Magazine by Jennifer Couzin Frankel predicted that “closing schools is likely to be a major step in slowing the spread of COVID-19 among students, staff members, and those around them. These quotes show both sides of the situation. Even though it's not an easy change, our current data supports that closing schools in New York keeps students safe from the virus and protects others in the community.
Aside from the health-related importance of distance learning, learning from home will help students work in a different way. According to a recent article in Purdue University Global , “the convenience and flexibility of online learning allows you to study any time, virtually anywhere you have an internet connection." The article suggests that this type of learning environment is
an "ideal solution" for people who benefit from flexible schedules. For example, online learning makes it easy for you to pause for a break or replay content to refresh your memory. This is important because not everyone learns in the same way. A recent article in The Community College Review claims that "not only do students learn in different ways, but they learn at different paces as well.” Though many students will find it hard to transition, these sources help highlight the benefits of remote learning such as reduced stress and flexible opportunities. Furthermore, online learning is useful because it prepares you for the future. Most importantly, it's just safer for everyone involved.
Some people oppose closing NYC schools because it’s something unexpected. The New York Times recently noted that “there is also the obvious downside of disruptions to education. Some schools can move to online learning, but not all are prepared. Not all students have access to the internet at home, let alone computers or devices with which they can actively participate in e-learning.” However these positions do not consider the benefits of remote learning. Learning from home works for students who struggle in school sometimes and is better for some people's emotional health. Remote learning allows students to decide the pace and time they want to dedicate to the work for themselves.
Due to the data available about how coronavirus spreads and the technological advantages of the modern day, schools in New York should stay closed. This stance is best for students who will learn better knowing they are safest at home. Students in New York City can practice new skills for studying and learning that works for them. Before, we only had one option: traditional classroom teaching. Though some people will argue that learning from home will cause students to struggle, we should consider how remote learning is forcing us to use technology in a way that prepares students for the future. Today, our city has had more deaths than any other in the United States. This likely includes students and teachers. Returning to schools can contribute to more losses. There are still many questions about the virus that even the experts have not figured out. The best learning happens when you are healthy and safe. For New York City, right now that means staying home and opening your Chromebook.
This is how I see COVID-19: not a virus but a lesson, not a holdback but a pause to catch up. And not "the worst thing that has happened to me," but instead as an eye-opener. As humans, we tend to live life in a hurry and lose sense of the most essential pieces of this big puzzle we call life. The business of working on ourselves--growth. Tell me, when was the last time you truly had time for yourself? I bet you can't think of a precise moment, right? Many are saying that this virus has ruined our lives because we can't go outside and socialize. Yes, of course, this caught us off guard. But we cannot look at this whole thing as a "punishment." You have to change your mindset. The inability to go outside is an opportunity to catch up on sleep, discover a new hobby, or do any of those million things you were always too busy to start. For example, what if you took this time to learn a language that has always appealed to you.
Have you taken time to read about what's going on with this home of ours since we've been away, and by our home, I mean this planet? Earth has been reported as cleaner and more hospitable to animals since factories are closed and fewer people are out to litter. Animals have been spotted thriving in surprising areas. These living creatures are less afraid to exist and roam since humans are not taking up all the space. Earth and animals are finally taking a well-deserved break from all the toxicity that we impose on them. So we should take a break, just the same. This virus has been a lesson to all humans in other ways as well. Before this, most of us wouldn't worry about being sick around others or prioritizing our hygiene-- washing our hands for at least 20 seconds, taking care of the world we live in not only for ourselves but for those around us. These lessons may seem small but are pretty important. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not been easy. That's not what I am saying. But it has definitely brought more than just "punishment" to humans. The more we listen to scientists and doctors, the faster we will understand what we're dealing with and get back to something like before. My advice: when you notice yourself being negative on a loop and not seeing anything else, make yourself see the goodness. They say God gives His toughest battles to the strongest soldiers. He won't let His children fall. Stay strong, positive, and healthy. Together we will rise from this.
The pandemic is changing our society. Mainly, I've been noticing that the way we communicate is evolving. I've found different ways to stay connected. I use my PS4 or any social media platform to reach out. Using my PS4 is useful. I say that because not only are you able to talk with your friends and check up on them but also have fun. I try to check up on my friends every two days or so. Just to make sure that they're holding up alright and know that I am here if they need anything. What I miss most of being physically connected is just seeing them face to face.
Being able to bother them and yell their names so that they have no choice but to turn around and laugh. I miss our roast sessions where we could be ourselves without anyone telling us not to. This whole pandemic has already had a significant impact, especially for seniors. This was the year for us to go out with a bang. But all of that is a distant reality, and we have to work from home. School is an escape for most of us because some of us don't wanna be home. We consider our friends our family because they accept us for who we are. They won't judge us or make us do something we don't want to do. This is why Inwood Academy is special to me and so many others. No matter what people do, there's no replacing that. I mean, we do appreciate the efforts, but there's no way around the truth,
Inwood is probably one of a handful of places where I feel comfortable being myself. It was my home. I felt at home with my friends. I even called the staff members, my friends, because we've grown so used to each other's company. Whether we are in class, lunch, or the hallways, we always found ways to make a little fun. Some people don't go home because they feel trapped in a space that they are not allowed to express themselves. Sometimes parents try to change their kids into other versions that aren't true to who they are. Kids, especially teenagers, are going through a time when this is all they experience. Being at home might seem like a good idea, but staying too long will eat away at you. At school, we talked about everything and anything without expectations. My friends would say things like "what if we lived in a simulation" or "why has everything bad happened after 2016." You know, hypothetical and random conversations that always end up somewhere unexpected but always with laughter you feel in the belly. I swear my friends are some of the most hilarious people in NYC and also the silliest. But even with everything going on, we still find ways to connect.
When I used to go out, I would just walk around NYC and just enjoy the fresh air. I would appreciate the sights and smells of the streets, the fragrance of food being cooked up on Dyckman. From Pastellitos to colorful cups of fruit being sold, there almost seemed to be a buffet somewhere to be explored. "Pastelitos para un peso" which means "pastelitos for a dollar." Hearing music blasting from apartments or people's cars. This, I miss. The streets were never quiet. Dyckman is a glorious and endless experience to take in. But right now, we are removed from this. And it hurts to have these things missing. Seeing the city that never sleeps takes a rest seems really weird. Not hearing idiots rev their cars up for attention while everyone quietly judges feels off. Not hearing moms disciplining children on their walks back from school feels unsettling. The new norm is quiet, I guess. But I know this can only go on for a bit longer. It's just who we are--lively and full of noise. We will soon return the outdoors and rediscover our face-to-face relationships with friends. Honestly, I can't wait. It's going to be action-packed, spilling over laughter and moms yelling for the first few days. We will bring back the noise, the sounds, and the life to our streets. Wait and see.
The picture is of my mom and me on senior night. Neither of my parents had attended any of my games before this night so her presence here meant a lot to me. Both my parents work hard, and I have always understood that, but naturally, I always wanted my parents at my game for support. I feel like if my parents had been able to attend some of my games, it would have motivated me to do better so that I can make them proud. I feel like if I had my family to support me at my games, I would have invested more into the sport. I will always be grateful for IAL because although my family wasn't there to support me at games, there were always people there cheering us on when we played. I will always appreciate my coaches and teachers that got closer to me and helped me more than just in the classrooms. I still appreciate my mom being there for me on senior night. In the picture, I might look like I was happy, which I was, but I was also disappointed because we had lost the game on our senior night. We tried our best even had a less-than-great start to the game. The only reason I wasn't too upset was that I knew we could make up for it at the championship game. But I suppose there are things that you have to let go and maybe you learn a lesson from it later while looking back. Not sure of that right now.
What I'm doing that's different is trying to talk to my parents more. Get to know them more. They were home with me for a week but then went back to work. But this was good because my mom needed a rest from her job. I tried to talk to my mom and learn about our family history, and what everyone did when they arrived from D.R.. I am feeling 100% bored but still trying to check up on different people to see how they've been, including old friends and the few new ones. Senior night was bittersweet because I didn't know it at the time, but it would be one of the last games of my high school basketball career. Due to the unexpected COVID-19, I wasn't able to get to the championship, which was one of the only things I was looking forward to this year. It's crazy how life throws unexpected things our way, but everything happens for a reason, and life goes on. So I'm moving along, too.
As we left school for the last time, we didn't know all that we'd be losing. Now you're sitting at home, not feeling the same connections. I've started to use tik-tok and mostly FaceTime also Instagram to share mostly funny videos I randomly find and share them with my friends and family these days.I've been playing more upbeat music than I have ever played in my life.
This month I have been eating quarantine birthday cake to find a little joy.I have developed a connection with online shopping. There's a new package in my doorstep almost every day. But most importantly, I have found some peace and quiet while I paint and listen to Harry styles Fine Line for a good millionth time.
These days I have started to occasionally walk around to see the magnolias around my neighborhood and feel the wind. This is something I haven't enjoyed in a long time, a pleasant walk down the baby snake hill up Fairview and Broadway. Everything about the way I used to think and the perspectives I have feels different. There was a week I wasn't feeling well. My mom told me "todo va esta bien mi niña." I just looked at her and responded in silence as if my fear took over me.That night I remember sleeping with a bible and a tiny bottle of metal with two blankets over my cold body. I remember praying in my head, telling God "Protect my family and everyone in the world ." At that moment, I realized that even with God I put everyone before me. It's not a matter of not loving myself, but just the way I've always been. This quarantine puts a lot into perspective it makes people write songs about future change and more love for the world and everything that once was. The funny thing is that Ms.Earth has given so much for the human race after years of humans taking it for granted I feel like she's finally taking a vacation. Although our situations could be better as humans, the earth's oceans and rivers have been able to breathe.
The way the flowers around the street polls are blossoming, I have never seen their colors brighten as they have these days. When you're trying to quarantine at your finest, I recommend you lie flat surface and listen to your favorite album. Then just breathe. Everyone deserves a break from reality. Try to remember the best time in your life and try to bring all the joy out with a simple smile. You'll find that the darkness you've felt will dissolve into dust.The light shall destroy the dark . In this time of crisis, I have become closer to my family. Being all together between four walls only makes closer. I tend to wake up late, maybe 2-3 pm, and do homework, then I occasionally paint.
Some late nights consist of late-night cravings, movie nights with a mini projector. There's always "rule breakers" kind of the quarantine kings. By that I mean the 40-50 year old uncles down at the bodega eating fritura and drinking Coronas at 1:25 in the morning. To be honest, their conversations are pretty hilarious when you can't find sleep until 4 am. I started to look forward to clapping at 7 pm out the windows to honor the healthcare workers in the neighborhood and around the world. I'm so grateful for their work and devotion to saving lives and doing everything they can to help the health of others. And to the unsung hero's sending donations to the people and families in need. This thank you is for you, along with everyone else finding ways to rise up. Thank you for working, saving lives, and loving one another.
The Choreography of a Pandemic
by Miguel Garcia
In the beginning
everything felt personal
The first swerved dap up
The first elbow tap
The waiting at crosswalks
The reminders to tighten my mask
The awkward dances with strangers
in store aisles
Made me cringe
As a country, we’ve settled on words
like “isolation” and “disconnect”
To frame this plague
Now that the denial has turned to panic
And the panic begins to dissolve into the mundane
We can move beyond the personal
And uncover the silver linings
There’s promise here
a rich stillness
A simultaneous distancing and heightened intimacy
A new language taking shape
Crafted amongst strangers
Yesterday, at the pharmacy
As the older woman shifted backward
And my hand slowly announced its next move
We learned to smile
with our eyes
Our masks on
We learned to synchronize
To use space
To infuse life
To uncover the song
Beneath the silence
To slow dance through a pandemic
A choreographed symbiosis
Dear Inwood Academy Seniors,
I’ll share a secret with you if you promise not to “clown” me. My happiest moments under quarantine have involved reading your creative writing submissions. Your words have drowned out the incessant sirens and snatched me away from the daily headlines. During a time of legally enforced separation, your writing has gifted me moments of complete connectedness. Though immensely varied, your work as a whole shares a fierce loyalty to our IALCS community and a willingness to participate in solution-finding. Speaking frankly, noticing these qualities in you brings me comfort. As your teachers, we operate with an awareness that our futures are bound up with yours. That your ideas and innovations will lead the way forward. When we first began our transition to remote learning, I worried that our classroom assignments would distract from your ability to manage the daily demands of the pandemic. I’m glad to admit that I was mistaken. Your work has revealed to me that the truth is the exact opposite. That the current state of the world renders literature and language more indispensable than ever before.
I’m comforted to know that wiser, more veteran members of our IAL community had long ago uncovered this truth. Last week, our school founder & CEO Christina Reyes announced a school-wide literacy campaign promoting the acts of reading and writing as essential to our community’s wellbeing. The new #InwoodReads #InwoodWrites Initiative will facilitate your access to books and writing opportunities across disciplines.
In alignment with #InwoodReads #InwoodWrites, I’ve updated our 12th grade ELA curriculum to grant you more freedom in coursework while increasing skill-based support as you dive into books and pick up your pens. Your overarching assignment for the remainder of the year is to build upon the work you’ve already begun: utilizing literature and language to make sense of the world around you. In concrete terms, this will involve whole-group writer workshops and individual book consultations. We will all share a book tracker on google drive revealing our current book of choice and linking our writing. Your final assignment will be interdisciplinary in nature: a mixture of literary analysis and personal narrative. On a school-wide level, we will document our journey through a blog that will be assembled and published as a book at the end of the year. My sole job as your teacher is to help you access books that speak to each of you and writing tools that clarify your voices. As seniors, you’ve inherited the responsibility of modeling forward movement for the underclassmen. Now as far as you and I go, I still have a full 35 days left as your classroom leader and boy do I have plans for us. Dust off those books and sharpen your pencils. We have work to do . #InwoodWritesforHope