BB&N, can we talk?

Editorial Board

Recent news has been pretty bleak. Just weeks ago, when the U.S. hit 100,000 new COVID cases in one day, the country was shocked and public health officials were horrified. At the time this paper went to press, we were averaging over 166,000 new cases per day, and the entire country seemed to be running out of hospital beds. Although we’re over eight months into the pandemic, the worst, it seems, is just beginning. And this has left many of us exhausted. There’s the frustration that we keep sacrificing our happiness for seemingly no improvement, the constant stress and fear that we may fall ill, the creeping despair that the COVID era will never end, and—compounding all these feelings—the lack of connection we all face.
Returning to school for a portion of the week has certainly allowed students more time with others in the community, but such encounters are different from previous years. Whereas we used to be free to roam the school and sit with friends, our actions are now regulated. We spend most of our time stuck in seating charts, a specific study hall, or, now that the cold has come, little isolated lunch tables. Though intra-student relationships are affected, we also feel an even stronger difference and notable absence in those with teachers.
Communicating well with others is by no means an easy task, and with so many of us feeling more stressed and overwhelmed than ever before, it is imperative to figure out how to do so. But it’s difficult, in this land full of restrictions, to make those student-teacher connections. Gone are the days of staying after class to chat or running into an office to ask a quick question. Every meeting has to be scheduled, every opportunity to talk planned in advance. During stressful periods, many of us rely on the opportunity for immediate or in-the-moment interactions. If we’ve had a bad day, received a disappointing test score, or encountered a difficult problem with a friend, we’re used to being able to head over to our advisor’s office or the counseling wing to talk our feelings out. No one but the virus is at fault for these changes, but still, they’re difficult to handle, and the replacements leave a lot missing.
Even when offered regular one-on-one Zoom meetings or the opportunity to use Calendly to sign up for a meeting at any point during the day, a lot of us feel bad about taking advantage of that time, especially if we’re just looking for a quick consultation. We feel we’re pestering adults, who have various other complicated things on their minds. Now that meetings often take place with teachers who are at home, we feel guilty about taking up their time when they have to tend to kids or other family members around them. We are acutely aware that our problems often aren’t that big, that they could be spending their time at home focused on more important things.
In class meetings or advisories, we’ve heard that teachers are aware of this lack of connection, but no one has proposed concrete solutions, and we don’t think students have had the opportunity or the ability to communicate specifically what we feel is missing. With this editorial, we encourage more openness between stuents and teachers in each class about appropriate boundaries for scheduling meetings and conversations. It may seem obvious to teachers, but we are sure students would benefit from having direct conversations facilitated to address specific student concerns around meeting. What are appropriate times to ask for a meeting? Are teachers willing to meet after the school day has ended? What is an appropriate length of meeting time? Are teachers OK with quick Zoom meetings, or should students use other methods of communication for smaller questions? Classes should be having these conversations.
We also encourage the entire community to think about creating more opportunities for undirected conversations that are not driven by any particular agenda. Every once in a while, could class end with an open space to chat? Would once-a-month, one-on-one regular meetings help some students? We’re not sure of a concrete solution, but we feel opening this topic up for discussion would help every one of us engage with the community of support we know the school provides.