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Aneesh Karuppur (’21) is a Copy Editor for the Record. He joined the staff in his sophomore year. He writes a regular Tech Column and contributes commentary on how the school can better the student experience. Aneesh enjoys reading about and debating technology, science, and current events. He plays the French Horn, viola, and violin.
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Brynn Weisholtz (VI) is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Pingry Record. She joined the team her freshman year as a way to explore her interest in writing. Brynn has written a variety of pieces for the Record over her four years of high school but especially enjoys writing interview pieces as she likes getting to know new faculty, staff, and students. From talking to the new Head of School to creating words-in-the-halls, she loves being able to connect with people she has never really spoken to before. Aside from writing for the Record, Brynn enjoys running, spending time with my friends and family, and watching The Office.
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By Noah Bergam (V)
Lights. Silence. 390 seconds of glory.
Ever since I first watched in sixth grade, I knew I wanted to do LeBow.
From the win of Katie Coyne ‘16 to the two-year reign of Rachel Chen ‘18 to the triumph of Miro Bergam ‘19, I sat anxiously in the audience year after year. I was the nervous yet critical viewer, who, in his endless deification of the stage, kept imagining how he himself might fare or fail in front of 700 academics. Time flew like an arrow, from imagination to reality. In my sophomore year, I took the stage with a speech about memes. And I won.
The aftermath followed a rapid progression from satisfaction to excitement to terror. I achieved what I had dreamed of for years, and I could still look forward to another chance at the stage in 2020. But I also knew I could very easily fail that second chance and fall short of the high expectations.
In preparing for this year’s competition, I believed that the only way to successfully replay the game would be to break it. So I chose to call out the unsettling pattern of universal agreeability that LeBow speeches were developing, a problematic pattern I myself upheld the year before. In this sense the speech was a critical self-reflection––I chose to burn the magic that I had internalized and glorified over the years, and from those ashes construct an argument against the very anti-argument nature of Pingry culture I embraced.
Did I fail? Certainly in the sense of losing the title.
But in retrospect, I got what I asked for. I did not design my speech to maximize likability among a judging panel––I wrote it in order to spark critical thought and disagreement among the broader student community. And in that sense, I think it was a success.
I met two counterarguments that, in the spirit of debate, I want to address.
To reiterate, my thesis is as follows:
“In order to make sure students develop the key skills of political disagreement, we ought to bring timely, wholehearted, messy debates into the classroom––and then we students ought to embrace more of that argumentative style in our own independent endeavors [eg LeBow itself].”
1. My message is NOT that Pingry students lack the capability to have difficult discussions. I can’t speak for what goes on within specific environments like affinity groups. I simply question how far-reaching, especially between identity boundaries, these discussions are. Thus, I assert that the humanities classroom is the best place to make controversial discussions informed and ubiquitous. Otherwise, Pingry students, like most citizens, will naturally flock to echo chambers, and schoolwide communication, especially in assemblies, will continue to favor numbing agreeability and “political correctness.”
2. Yes, I do think teachers should give their personal opinions in class. Obviously, this comes with a two-pronged expectation of maturity. The student should be able to respect the teacher’s opinion without bowing down to it, and the teacher should be able to be subjective with the explicit intent to inform rather than directly convince.
As I defend this thesis, I don’t pretend my speech was perfect. I made plenty of miscalculations, the most obvious of which was the exclamation that “I’m the Big Fish in a Little Pingry Pond!” Yes, that sounds arrogant. I was trying to be ironic, I was trying to make it clear that the concept of a big fish here is a dangerous illusion that limits one’s ability to think outside the scope of this community’s limited discourse. But I suppose using such a phrase as the cornerstone of the speech might have given some pretty negative impressions. So it goes.
It’s over now. Now I will return to the audience for one last year to watch the brilliance of LeBow from a new lens. But I won’t forget the message I crafted. I’ll continue to defend it and live it out, especially in regards to this newspaper.
The theory of the Big Fish was refuted. But defeated? The point was made on stage and proven offstage. So I accept this loss wholeheartedly.
Andrew Wong (‘22) is the Chief Web Editor and Assistant Layout Editor for The Pingry Record. He first began as a writer for the Record during his Freshman year, becoming a layout editor, then Chief Web Editor, during his Sophomore year.
Andrew loves writing and debating about all things politics. Throughout his time at the Record he has written a whole host of articles covering topics ranging from the value of history and the humanities in an increasingly STEM-oriented world, to the protests in his family hometown of Hong Kong. In addition to politics, Andrew also loves listening to and sharing the stories of other people from around the world. For him, every story, no matter where it comes from or who tells it, is a chance to gain valuable insight and perspective into life and the wider world.
In his freetime, Andrew enjoys playing the violin, playing water polo, and playing video games with his friends.
By Dean Koenig (V)
The annual Lunar New Year assembly on January 24 commenced as Middle School Chinese 1B students performed the celebratory Chinese Dragon Dance. The students raised and lowered the body of the long, red dragon figure around the auditorium. As one of the most common Lunar New Year traditions, the Dragon Dance is performed for a variety of reasons, including to deter evil spirits and bring good luck.
Next, Jeremy Lin (V), Kyra Li (III), Lauren Kim (III), Aneesh Karuppur (V), and Justin Li (V) played a Chinese folk song called “The Joy of the New Year.” The bright tune of this traditional folk song from the Hebei Province was perfectly captured by the diversity of instruments the students presented. The song represents familial harmony and the lively spring in the New Year.
After the folk song, the Purple Swans Dance Troupe returned to the stage for the second year in a row. Former Upper School Chinese Teacher Ms. Yi Hao, who plays a pivotal role in the group, helped bring them back. They performed an elegant Chinese folk dance for the “New Attire” ritual. The “New Attire” dance represents a Lunar New Year custom in which women wear new clothing and dance joyfully for a year of good fortune.
Next came Franklin Zhu (IV) and Ram Doraswamy (IV), who celebrated the New Year in one of the most popular ways: singing. The two performed “Look Over Here, Girl,” a 1998 Chinese pop song by Taiwanese artist Richie Jen. While singing in Chinese, Zhu played the tambourine and Doraswamy strummed a guitar.
Perhaps the audience’s favorite part of the assembly was when the emcees, Monica Chan (V) and Guan Liang (V), announced that day’s lunch menu. Since food is an integral part of Chinese culture and celebrations, the SAGE Dining crew prepared a delicious Chinese-themed meal. In addition to the lunch, there were Chinese cultural stations led by Chinese students and families in the cafeteria during conference period with activities and treats, such as dumplings, a chopsticks contest, and bubble tea.
As the excitement settled down, a video was played that showed the celebration of Lunar New Year through the lens of student interviews. Those in the video shared the ways in which they celebrate and what they enjoy about the festivities. The video was both informative and humorous, getting several laughs due to the comical editing style.
To close the assembly, the fan favorite Taiko Drumming Club performed a piece called “Tatsumaki,” which means “whirlwind.” The energy of a whirlwind could be felt throughout the auditorium as Pingry Taiko, led by math teacher Mr. Christofer Leone, put on one of its strongest and most dynamic performances yet. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see all the hard work and hours of preparation that the students put in pay off on stage,” Mr. Leone said.
Overall, the assembly was an entertaining way for the community to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Liang said, “The Lunar New Year is a time of joy, and I’m happy to be able to share this joy with the Pingry community.”
By Maile Winterbottom (V)
The Pingry community gathered together to celebrate Black History Month in a moving assembly on Friday, February 7th. There were singing performances, videos, poems, and even a fashion show. The assembly kicked off with a video about the history of Black History month, followed by a beautiful singing of “A Change is Gonna Come,” by Kaley Taylor, who wore a shirt with the words “Black Girl Magic.” Another video was also presented of black students sharing what Black History Month means to them. Many other presentations followed, including a moving monologue by the Afrofuturism HIRT, a performance of the song “Amazing Grace” by Ore Shote, and the reading of an original poem by Ajuné Richardson. All of these presentations did an excellent job of showing the beauty and power of the black community in Pingry and around the world.
A graceful dance, to the powerful song “Rise Up” by Andra Day, was then performed by Ms. Barnes and Mrs. Bonds, along with a group of Middle and Upper School students. Following the dance, a group of African-American Pingry parents came up to the stage, showing pride for their respective historically black fraternities and sororities. As their children cheered them on in the audience, the parents danced joyfully across the stage, some wearing clothing with their fraternity/sorority colors.
Next came a fashion show in which a number of lines were showcased, all inspired by the works of well known African-American fashion designers. One line was called “black girl magic,” in which young black women walked across the stage in simple black t-shirts with the words “black girl magic” on them. Another line was “black boy joy,” which was explained to be a line that encouraged young black men and boys to feel vulnerable, as it is often perceived that they are not allowed to be.
“I thought that the combination of music, fashion, and poetry were all really beautiful,” remarked junior Sandra Adablah. Overall, the assembly did Black History Month justice, and it celebrated black history and culture in a way that was both powerful and fun.
By Anjola Olawoye (III)
On Friday, January 17, the Pingry community held an assembly to honor and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is an annual event, in which the Short Hills and Basking Ridge campuses show their appreciation through poetry, music, skits, and more. In one past MLK Day assembly, Sarah Collins Rudolph, a survivor of the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, shared her unique experience.
This year, the Middle and Upper School students and faculty members remembered Martin Luther King, Jr. with a number of music and dance performances, spoken word, and slideshows. The assembly began with an uplifting spoken poem by Jordan McDonald ‘26 named “My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams,” which paid homage to her ancestors. The performance was followed by a group of Middle Schoolers who danced to the R&B/Soul song, “Rise Up,” by Andra Day. “Rise Up” spreads the message of perseverance during hardships and prompts listeners to feel hopeful. Another highlight of the assembly featured singer/songwriter K’Lynn Jackman, who performed songs including “Tomorrow” by Trevon Campbell. Similarly to “Rise Up,” “Tomorrow” is another uplifting song that discusses the mindset of being hopeful for a promising future. The song was also released as an inspirational way of leading people into Black History Month. Throughout the assembly, historical slideshows and videos were projected to remind the Pingry community of Martin Luther King’s crucial role in activism. Towards the end of the MLK assembly, affinity groups including the Black/African American, South Asian, and Latinx groups wrote letters to Martin Luther King that reflected upon his profound impact on activism. The South Asian affinity group discussed how “although they are neither black nor white, Dr. King is not only an advocate for the black community, but other minorities as well.”
Not only did the Pingry community honor Dr. King in the assembly, it engaged in community service during the MLK Day of Service the following Monday. The MLK assembly provides an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to learn and remember Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.
By Emily Shen (IV)
On Tuesday, January 21st, the Drama II students performed “How to Succeed in High School Without Really Trying,” a short comedy written by Jonathan Rand. Not only did the performance showcase the students’ performing skills, but it also reflected all of the hard work that the students put into their drama class this year. This piece consisted of 7 different “lessons,” including Homeroom, English, Math, Foreign Languages, Science, History, and Physical Education, and each presents the audience with “tips” on how to succeed in the class without overworking themselves.
Each of these “tips” were brought with joy and comedic relief to the audience. For instance, some tips to succeed in English class included “stroking your chin, nodding, stroking your chin while nodding,” and “whenever possible, use the word ‘juxtaposition’ during class discussions.” Students apply these tips into “real-life examples,” triggering heartfelt laughter from the audience members. Another tip in this comedy pertained to foreign languages. For instance, if a student struggles to find the right word, “just rattle off random words anyone would know” such as “déjà vu” and “baguette” for French class.
Behind the enjoyable performance was the hard work of Drama II students and Mr. Van Antwerp. When asked about the rehearsing process for the performance, Sarah Kloss (IV) responded, “It was a large cast, so it was hectic trying to get everyone where they were supposed to be [ … ] but, I think Mr. Van Antwerp chose a play that we thought was really funny, and it was nice to have multiple roles because we were able to play different characters.”
Because it was their first time performing on stage, many of the Drama II students were quite nervous before the performance. “I was actually extremely nervous before we were supposed to perform because I had never performed in front of the whole school before, but as soon as I said my first line, I felt ready” Kloss noted. Franklin Zhu (IV), another Drama II performer, shared an anecdote about his experience. “During our rehearsal before the assembly, I accidentally tripped on the microphone and caused a big scene” said Zhu. “I am glad I did that during the rehearsal and not the actual performance.”
The Drama II assembly was a delightful experience for both the performers and the audience members. Both Kloss and Zhu agreed that the script Mr. Antwerp chose worked really well in a school setting. “I really enjoyed how our scenes were about school. It gave me different viewpoints about the environment we are in,” noted Zhu. Olivia Telemaque (IV) reflected on her experience with the assembly, “I really liked the performance! It was really chill and light to alleviate the tension and stress about all the bad news that recently happened.”
The performance went smoothly, and the cast members did an amazing job collaborating with each other to carry out an enjoyable assembly for the Pingry community. We can’t wait to see future performances featuring these talented students!
By Aneesh Karuppur (V)
Welcome back to another edition of The Pingry Record Tech Column! Let’s see how the new decade started off in the world of technology.
But first, a brief update on Pingry’s wonderful Student Technology Committee (STC). STC’s various groups are working hard in hopes of having significant results by the end of the school year. One team built a charging station near the cafeteria and is currently working on equipping it with cables. In addition, mobile charging carts have arrived and are under construction.
STC has also started a top-secret project relating to technology and interpersonal communication! Stay tuned for more updates on that group’s proposal to our existing technology issues.
STC’s 3D Printing team hosted its first workshop of the year, when Julian Lee (V) ran an AutoCAD workshop for STC members. In the near future, the team expects to roll out workshops for the student body and faculty, which will focus on integrating 3D Printing into specific curricula.
As of now, anybody can use the 3D printer for a valid, school-related reason. In fact, architecture and art classes have already started using it. To print, simply make a model using your CAD software of choice, save it as a .stl file, and speak to an STC member for help printing.
Now, let’s broaden our scope of discussion and take a look at some global tech news, starting off with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.
The buzziest part of the show was Neon, a Samsung subsidiary that is planning to make artificial humans for use in various settings. Neon ended up being completely overhyped. When excited showgoers went to the booth, they discovered that the life-sized images of people were actually just actors and not artificially intelligent cyborgs. Although Neon promises results eventually (as is the case for many tech startups!) it may take a while for anything to come of it.
One of the main focuses of the CES was the new display technology. Samsung showed off an 8K television (which has about sixteen times more pixels than a standard MacBook screen), which would not be very special if it were not for the fact that the TV has no bezels (black bars around the edge). This means that the visual content extends the entire length and width of the TV and provides an immersive viewing experience. In other news, LG, TCL, and other major TV manufacturers introduced some minor improvements to their existing lineups.
Another interesting development was the increased emphasis on 5G. 5G is the next-generation cellular network and has been reported to be much faster than existing 4G LTE technology. 5G has already been rolled out in numerous places across the country. Since it requires special phone models, its adoption has been fairly limited thus far. Nevertheless, major carriers have promised that more devices will support 5G by next year. At CES, laptop makers like Lenovo and HP jumped on the trend by offering 5G-enabled laptops so users can work anywhere with a cellular connection.
Well, that about wraps it up for this edition of the tech column! Be sure to continue reading in the next issue to observe the trends of the tech world.
By Brian Li (IV) and Carson Shilts (V)
In the past year, the Pingry Upper School English Department has undergone major changes involving the Junior and Senior curricula. Previously, the Junior/Senior electives were a collective affair; now, Juniors and Seniors take their spring electives separately, resulting in a shift in the works used and courses that are taught by faculty. As Pingry students, it is important to understand exactly what purposes these changes serve and what you may be losing and or gaining from the new curricula. To further understand this topic, I interviewed Upper School Director Dean Chatterji, who helps oversee any and all curriculum changes.
Dean Chatterji explained that curriculum change is a “two-year process” and that these changes are “big changes that we are not undertaking right now.” The sentiment seems that course adjustment is a difficult and lengthy process that is only undergone when it is necessary. Dean Chatterji also discussed how the most recent changes have been those made to the English curriculum. This prompted me to reach out to Dr. Dickerson, Chair of the English Department, for further clarification.
Dr. Dickerson said, in the case of English, that “last year was a year of great change.” Dr. Dickerson explained how the English spring elective program was revised for Juniors and Seniors. Both classes used to take their second semester English elective together, in a mixed class; that method was discarded. When asked why, Dr. Dickerson stated, “We felt that the Juniors did not have enough options for Junior electives.”
The English department added three new electives: Gold Rush, Waterways, and American Contemporary Poetry; these courses are meant to “complement American Literature” which is the required fall semester course. Dr. Dickerson further explained that “American Literature can be kind of rushed and packed so we felt that this would give students a chance to further explore these topics.” She also discussed how it was difficult for Juniors to keep a certain level of rigor up when mixed in a class with seniors, as seniors leave early for their Independent Senior Projects. Seniors now take a full year of courses related to world literature, and new electives have been added to their course sheet as well. Rising Juniors and Seniors may have noticed that they both have five different spring electives to choose from, which is new to this year. Rising Juniors have the option to take The Contemporary American Short Story, which is a new course that will run next year. Rising Seniors have two new options to choose from Creative Writing and The Great Epic: The Trojan War & Its Aftermath, making the number of spring electives between Juniors and Seniors equal.
Dr. Dickerson explained that “it’s all a trade off; you’re always losing something and you’re always gaining something,” which is something that is always important to keep in mind. Though some books such as The Adventures of Huck Finn are no longer part of the curriculum, many great novels have been added in response. As literature and world issues progress, the curriculum will continue to change to keep it as relevant and valuable as possible.
By Martha Lewand (VI)
On February 1, Upper School students attended the annual Snowball Dance at The Westin Governor Morris in Morristown, NJ.
Students spent the night dancing, having fun with their peers, and enjoying dinner while a small group of faculty chaperoned. This semi-formal dance was a great way for the student body to enjoy themselves after the end of a long first semester.
Snowball is a “Sadie Hawkins” style dance—a school dance in which girls traditionally ask boys to be their date. Some students asked their dates to Snowball through creative “promposal”-style ways. At Snowball, most girls wore corsages as guys bore boutonnieres. A majority of girls styled dresses and jumpsuits from stores like Revolve, Free People, Lulus, and more, while most guys dressed in different colored suits with ties.
Once students began to arrive at around 7 p.m., they checked in with chaperones and hung their coats. Shortly after, the dancing commenced. For roughly three hours, the DJ played many hit songs from the past few decades. The songs ranged in style and tempo from Rihanna’s “We Found Love” to The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.”
“I had a lot of fun dancing,” said Nicole Gilbert (VI). “It was the most enjoyable Snowball of all the years I’ve been.”
In the midst of the often crowded and lively dance floor, students took breaks to eat dinner and drinks catered by the hotel. Food options included pizza, dumplings, pasta, and more. At the end of the dance, there was an ice cream bar with an expansive selection of toppings to choose from. In addition, drinks such as non-alcoholic piña coladas were served.
“The food and drinks were a great mix of student favorites and more formal options” said Jessica Hutt (VI). “There were lots of crowd-pleasers as well as classier selections to fit the evening’s dressed-up vibe.”
After the dance, students collected their belongings and headed out. Some went straight home, to a diner, or hung out with friends. For some seniors, it was a night they made sure to cherish.
“It was emotional because of the fact I never wanted to leave,” said Josh Thau (VI), a senior lifer. “I sincerely enjoyed it.”
By Andrew Wong (IV)
As the ball in Times Square finished its long descent, with the chants of over a million people in Times Square and millions more glued to their TV screens counting down, our world would be ushered into not only a new year, but a new decade.
5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Happy 2020.
For many of us here at Pingry, 2020 will be a year of great accomplishments and change. Seniors will go to college. Juniors will embark on the college process. Sophomores will start another hectic year of high school, and the freshmen will no longer be the wide-eyed newcomers they once were when they first walked in. This year, we will meet new people, we will learn new and fascinating subjects, and we will write the next chapter of our lives, as we enter another year, full of hope for the future.
At least, that was the plan.
On January 3, I opened Instagram to find a deluge of posts about World War III. These posts were in response to the U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, and they ranged from sensationalized faux news reports on how the US was about to start a war with Iran, to memes detailing how to dodge the draft that the U.S. government would soon supposedly start. Media outlets had a field day with this news, as they scrambled to point a finger at who was to blame for this sudden escalation of panic.
As tensions rose, Iran would launch missiles at American troops, and 176 people would tragically die in a commercial airplane crash after being accidentally shot down. Maybe World War III would start after all. Of course, as we know now, World War III never did start, no one would be drafted, and the world breathed a collective sigh as we stepped back from that tense moment.
But it was just the start.
Later that week, I read on Hong Kong news that a new SARS-like virus had infected around 100 people in Wuhan, China, and medical experts were scrambling to identify what this new deadly virus was. By the next week, experts called it the novel coronavirus, which was spreading at an exponential rate and killing hundreds. As of February 2020, coronavirus has now spread to 28 countries, infected 35,000 people, and has killed 700 people.
As the world focused on the possibility of World War III and the spread of coronavirus, there would also be terrible and highly destructive environmental disasters. New wildfires would ravage the Australian Outback, there would be devastating earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean, and the worst locust swarms in over 70 years in East Africa would destroy thousands of acres of crops, eating over 1.8 million tons of vegetation a day.
On January 26, I, along with many other people around the world, watched in horror at the news that the great Kobe Bryant, at age 41, and his daughter Gianna, age 13, had been killed in a horrific helicopter accident in California. Fans around the world mourned the basketball legend, who had been an inspiration to the whole world on and off the court.
All of these horrible events, in the span of just a month into the new year. It is evident that this is not the 2020 we were looking for.
Browsing the internet today, it’s very easy to find memes or articles lamenting just how bad the start of the year was. The memes try to find some sense of humor in all the tragedies, while the articles will try to find a source of blame for the problems, whether in politicians, climate change, or even ourselves. Both sources continue this fearmongering with the argument that 2020 will only get worse. These memes and articles, while trying to be funny or push a pessimistic message, expose a wider, pernicious problem. It is evident that there has been a loss of hope in our world these days. According to a recent YouGov/Economist poll taken on January 9, 2020, less than 39% of respondents said they are optimistic about 2020.
Is this the world we want to live in? As we move deeper and deeper into 2020, we should not be afraid of this new year.
Pope Francis told diplomats in a speech at the Vatican in early January as tensions rose between the U.S. and Iran that “Precisely in light of these situations, we cannot give up hope. And hope requires courage. It means acknowledging that evil, suffering and death will not have the last word, and that even the most complex questions can and must be faced and resolved.”
If we move on past all the terrible events of January, there is a lot of hope that 2020 will be a good year. Already, efforts are being made to combat the spread of coronavirus, with new treatments and potential cures being discovered every day. New technologies will be unveiled that have the potential to change our world forever. We will meet new people and start new friendships and relationships that will change our lives forever. The year is still young, and there is so much to look forward to in this new year, regardless of all the tragedies that have befallen us. All we have to do is just remind ourselves there still is good in this world, and there is so much more to look forward to.
I am ready for this new year. Are you?
Noah Bergam (’21) is the co-editor-in-chief of the Record. He joined the staff in his freshman year, when he was asked, coincidentally on his birthday, to help edit sports articles.
He specializes in opinion pieces and enjoys their ability to share stances on important issues while also telling a story. He enjoys shedding light on the competitive atmosphere of Pingry but also creating windows into broader political stories––and in all his work, including LeBow speeches, he sure loves a good overarching analogy! As Ki-Jung from Parasite says, “This is so metaphorical!”
Noah enjoys watching film, playing Taiko drums, and teaching math. He has an educational YouTube channel and he would love to get both your feedback and your subscription.
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By Meghan Durkin (V) & Andrew Wong (IV)
On Thursday, March 12, amid concerns over the novel Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, Head of School Matt Levinson announced that Pingry would adopt a remote learning model until at least April 10. On Friday, March 27, heeding Governor Murphy’s updated advisory, this remote learning regime was extended to April 17.
School-sponsored activities, including athletics, were suspended as well, in hopes of keeping the Pingry community safe. This news followed the cancellation of multiple spring break trips, including the French exchange program and the athletic trips to Florida.
Prior to Spring Break, as New Jersey reported its first case of COVID-19, Pingry prepared for likely disruptions as a result of the virus. Mr. Levinson assembled a task force, led by Associate Director of Operations, Safety, and Strategic Initiatives David Fahey, to monitor the situation as it evolved. This model “allows us to act with deliberate speed and care in our decision-making, while also being nimble and adaptive to changing circumstances,” said Mr. Levinson. So far, the biggest challenge for the task force “has been the speed at which [COVID-19] has unfolded.” While COVID-19 spread from China to South Korea to Italy, the virus seemed to be a distant threat. Though, by late March, the United States had over 27,000 confirmed cases.
As Pingry does its part to slow the spread of COVID-19, a new reality of “social distancing” has affected faculty and students. Governor Phil Murphy ordered a statewide lockdown, which encourages people to stay home and shuts down all non-essential business, leaving vacations cancelled, standardized tests postponed, and store shelves empty. Pingry’s remote learning model looks to continue fostering educational growth, while keeping Pingry and the greater community healthy. Teachers, by using virtual classes and online assignments, hope to make remote learning engaging and effective. Mr. Tim Grant, a chemistry teacher, explained the “need to try to create a classroom feel where everyone can feel heard and be involved,” as he believes “a class does involve the transfer of information, but much more importantly it must have the feeling of community.” For many teachers, including Mr. Grant, effectively using remote learning will be a “journey that to me looks like I’ve been air-dropped into the Amazon and I can’t imagine what comes next. The journey will be both scary and exciting with many new discoveries.”
Dean Ananya Chatterji echoed this sentiment in an email to Upper School students, expressing the faculty’s shared hopes for the extended closure. She explained that transitioning to online learning “is NOT going to be perfect. Everyone knows this, and no one — not a single one of us — expects that this will go smoothly. We are hoping to treat it like an adventure: something we can try our best at, knowing there will be pitfalls and successes. Most of all, adventures should be fun. So our hope, as a faculty, is to have fun with it.”
Students will also have to adapt to new circumstances, not only academically, but also extracurricularly. With delayed athletic seasons that face possible cancellations, students look to make the best of the unexpected situation. Mr. Grant, who coaches girls’ varsity track, explained his realization “that [he] must give enough information so that each athlete can learn how to coach themselves.” Both students and coaches must find “some gems against the rubble,” as they stay in-shape and prepare for a potential season at home. Along with sports, clubs face new challenges, as they hope to keep members connected online.
Furthermore, this new territory of remote learning changes many students experience socially. Sanjana Biswas (V) said, “I’ll miss my friends the most and just the experience of being in school. As much as we complain about it, we all have fun talking to our friends during lunch and flexes and going to class.” Though, she added, “It’s pretty easy to stay in touch through FaceTime and text.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the Pingry community looks to be cautious, as the possibility of extended closure looms. Students and faculty alike promise to remain open and positive throughout these uncertain times. Gia Kalro (V) believes that while “we’ll have a lot of trial and error, eventually it will all work out.”
As of March 22, global Coronavirus cases have surpassed 300,000. In just a few weeks, everyday life in the United States and abroad has been replaced by social distancing and self-quarantining, while each day the number of cases grows. Though, during this time of uncertainty, both the Pingry and global community has stressed the importance of staying calm and maintaining hope. Mr. Levinson encourages students “to have fun, try new things, be creative, and take the time to get outside for some fresh air,” while finding “ways to build community remotely, whether it’s around a shared interest like a club, or around a passion project.” He asks the community to “be patient as we all discover new ways of learning and being in community together.”
By Alex Wong (I)
On Thursday, March 19, Head of Middle School Ms. Laurie Piette sent out an email to Middle Schoolers, detailing the schedule for Remote Learning amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The schedule detailed days of the week for live check-in sessions, due dates for asynchronous work for classes, and when students would receive feedback on their asynchronous work. The start of remote learning in the Middle School has caused mixed reactions among the faculty and students alike.
Like their Upper School counterparts, Middle School students were instructed to use Google Meet to attend their remote classes. Throughout the week of March 23, students received a variety of communications from Middle School Dean of Academics Mr. Allen Thomas, Middle School Director of Athletics Mr. Gerry Vanasse, Middle School Dean of Students Mr. Michael Coakley, their advisors, and their subject teachers, culminating in an advisory meeting on March 26. Laura Young (I) remarks, “I think remote learning is something we are all not familiar with, and it will be rough in the beginning with mistakes, but I think that remote learning is just as good as learning in school. This is not a step back, this is just a different way of learning.” Tyler Katt (I), mentioned, “It is a lot more relaxed however you have to be responsible with timing out your work and attending your online classes.”
With these hopes in mind, on March 27, Middle Schoolers logged on for their first remote class, English, where they were able to ask questions to teachers, learn new class guidelines such as muting your microphone during class, and start to get a feel of learning remotely.
Remote Learning has certainly brought its own changes to the Middle School, whether it be a massive reduction of classes (1 or 2 classes per day online versus 5 classes normally) and the switch to a pass/fail grading system for all core classes. When asked about how he felt about the changes, Ian Konops (I) remarked, “My feelings on remote learning are mixed. I’m happy to be back at school but I had hoped that the classes and work would be more interactive. I would like more live classes and interaction with teachers and students.”
Outside of academics, Middle School Director of Athletics Mr. Gerry Vanasse stepped up and made daily home workout videos for the Middle School students to watch and do. Mr. Vanasse has featured workouts such as light weight resistance, circuits, and dynamic warmup. When asked about what inspired him to start making the exercise videos, Mr. Vanasse commented, “Just as students will make time for their remote academic learning, they need to schedule time in their day to exercise their bodies. The videos are designed to provide a variety of workout types that are fun, effective, and can be done at home. I hope the videos will continue to help motivate and inspire our Middle School students to stay fit and healthy.”
In conclusion, everyone knows that this is an unfamiliar and uncertain time. Everyone in the Middle School is trying their best to pursue life as normal, and in these next few weeks, we will see if this new remote learning model can work.