Throughout a uniquely difficult year of remote learning and social distancing, student government, grade reps, and teachers have struggled to set up fun and interactive virtual events. Among the challenges are overcoming some students’ reluctance to participate because they have low expectations for these virtual events, and maximizing the odds that those students who do show up don’t turn their cameras off and turn their attention elsewhere, which largely defeats the purpose of connecting them in the first place.
For freshmen, not being able to see people every day and not experiencing a group environment makes them feel isolated. Freshman Margaret Townsend said, “Not being able to enjoy the sense of community that previous assemblies allowed limited my ability to meet new students and experience a normal freshman year.”
Even though virtual events make it hard to connect with other students, many people still feel it’s important to participate to bring some normalcy to school life. Phoebe Koehler, a freshman grade rep, said, “Even though virtual events will never be as effective or fun as in-person events, they are better than no events. The freshman class needs to connect and build community now more than ever.”
Latin is reaching the one-year anniversary of making the transition to remote learning. That means students are facing a second year of uncertainty about the status of spring events. For upperclassmen at Latin, one of the biggest events is of course Prom. In early 2020, when people were still figuring out how to modify their lives to follow safety guidelines, students were disheartened by not having big events like Prom to attend. Abby Dutta ‘20 said, “I think due to the early stage of the pandemic, I assumed Prom would be canceled and did not have much hope for a remote substitute.”
There is a much better understanding now than a year ago of how COVID spreads, so perhaps the school could find a way to hold in-person events this spring in a safe manner.
Senior and student government social chair Olivia Katz said, “Kids are dying for some in-person social interaction, and I really want to give that to them. Especially for this year’s seniors, who will never get to attend a Prom as their junior year Prom was canceled.”
Prom is an event that most high school students look forward to, and not being able to have that experience makes remote school and quarantine feel more and more like one endless day. Senior Nicole Lucas said, “I think a virtual Prom would be fun, and I think student gov would do a great job, but it definitely wouldn’t be as fun as an in-person Prom.” The lack of social interaction and build up of Zoom fatigue certainly don’t help students’ optimism, either.
Latin also now has a year of experience learning how to engage students in a remote environment, so perhaps event planners can come up with a virtual Prom—and other virtual events—that are a success.
Even when the virtual social events do happen, students may choose not to participate, and grade representatives are struggling to find out why. Asher Patent, a freshman grade rep, said, “I think it is a combination of factors: awkwardness, Zoom fatigue, and lack of interest in student government events.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear way to get rid of that awkwardness in a virtual environment.
Though student events may not look the same as they used to for a while, they have the potential to significantly increase the community’s morale. The engaging chat feature and the fun games like Deal or No Deal and Family Feud can put a smile on students’ faces and allow them to momentarily forget about their current schooling and living situations. Senior Eli Aronson said, “There’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. Between the weather starting to be nice, the positivity test rate going down, and vaccines continuing to roll out, it’s fair to say that the best days are ahead.”