From the Expert: How to Survive the Heschel School Day

By Austin Davis


On November 28th, I spent the day participating in the time-honored dean tradition of following a student around for the entire school day. Armed with my backpack, my notebook, and my rudimentary knowledge of French, I traveled from class to class with junior Leah Namdar-Cohen ’20 to learn a bit more about the Heschel student experience for myself. I wondered: Would I be exhausted by the end of the day? Would I be able to remember any high school biology? Would I participate enough in class discussions? What would Heschel life be like from the student side of things?

Fortunately, with lots of help from Namdar-Cohen herself, I made it through the day—and now that I’m the foremost expert on the subject, I’m ready to share the lessons I learned about how to survive as a high-school student at Heschel. So, without further ado, here are ten do’s and don’ts for anyone looking to maximize their potential as a Heschel student:


1) DON’T wear your backpack into the breakfast mosh pit. Who would’ve known that the most stressful part of the day would be the process of securing a bagel and cream cheese? I apologize to all the students I bumped into as I waded my way toward those sweet, sweet bagels—particularly Maya Yanowitch ’22, whose coffee was no match for my swinging backpack. Sorry, Maya!


2) DO be on time to your period 2 class. Leah and I were able to get breakfast and still make it to the biology lab on time for class—it is possible! And then we got to make snarky side-eyes at everyone who came in late. If you’re looking for a morning pick-me-up, forget the coffee: starting your first class without a last-minute hustle works even better.


3) DON’T despair over all the… well… despair in your different classes. Over the course of the morning, we discussed the potential ethical evils of genetically-engineered humans, Talmudic guidance on exacting the death penalty, and the rise of Hitler in the early 1930’s. Who would’ve thought there would be so much to angst over across our curriculum? Not that the English department is particularly innocent here, I must admit. Just stay strong through all that sad material—hugs help!


4) DO pack layers for your school day. Will your next classroom be warm and toasty? Will it be bone-chillingly cold? Will that person sitting next to you demand to open a window even though everyone else in the room wants it closed? A good turtleneck or sweater is key here: you never know what kind of microclimate you’ll enter next.


5) DO take notes in all your classes. By period 6, I was having trouble remembering what we’d discussed during period 2. There’s a lot of content being thrown at you each day—you’ve got to keep a record of it! I prefer a good spiral-bound college-ruled notebook, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.


6) DO be nice to “strangers”—even if that’s not advice you often hear. I was surprised by how often I was seeing the same people in all of Leah’s classes, both tracked and untracked. There were some 11th graders I saw many times throughout the day, and there were some I never saw. So, go out of your way to say hi in the hallways to people you don’t ever see in class: no need to be like ships passing in the night!


7) DON’T get confused between English and Tanakh. I was surprised by how similar these classes felt, even if the texts being studied were quite different. If you find yourself having a hard time distinguishing between the two, ask some key questions: Is anyone seeing a ladder up to heaven? Is anyone struggling with a guilty conscience? Is anyone speaking in bizarre metaphors? Actually… yep, you just might have to remain confused. Sorry about that.


8) DO take the stairs. It feels good to move in between those 50 minutes of sitting! I’m serious!


9) DON’T underestimate the value of food in an afternoon class. In our 9th period French class, the class Kahoot champion won a bag of mini Kit-Kats, and I just about lost my mind with jealousy. Thank you to Netanel Shapira ’20 for sharing some of your spoils with me!


10) Finally, DON’T forget to thank your teachers—as often as you can. I saw some amazing teaching in my day as an 11th grader, and I am jealous of all of you who get to enjoy these fabulous classes every day. Thanks to Leah for letting me follow her around all day, and thanks to all the teachers who let me play student for a little bit!


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