Sadie Mank ‘23 and Jed Cosgrove ‘23, Staff Writers
Since this school year began, limited time in the building has meant maximizing social opportunities within pods. A surprising thing about the high school’s in-school schedule is students’ excess downtime. From study halls to lunch periods, students continue to figure out ways to have socially-distanced fun within pods.
Freshmen this year face an especially challenging situation: they have to get to know each other and the high school under these difficult circumstances. Ninth grader Ginger Weinstein explained, “Even though we couldn’t choose our pods, it turned out okay because we got an opportunity to meet new people.” Her pod members usually spend their downtime playing games or chatting. Despite some awkwardness when there’s nothing to talk about, her pod has had the opportunity to bond and have fun together on a weekly basis.
Sophomore Clementine Gottlieb’s pod has had a similar experience. She commented that the students in her pod “talk a lot. We also watch Criminal Minds or Percy Jackson.” Tenth -grader Tessa Butler’s pod also watches television during free periods: “We watch Schitt’s Creek. A new episode every week,” Butler explained. Starting a show together and watching consecutive episodes creates a ritual for a pod and fosters a sense of continuity from week to week.
Sitting in the same seat all day has proven to be difficult for some students, so some pods engage in socially-distanced activities involving movement to combat the inactivity. Senior Aaron Epstein explained, “We play catch with a ball someone brings, sanitizing both our hands and the ball before. A bunch of people make TikToks too. We do it to get out of our seats.”
In contrast to other pods, eleventh grader Rachel Shela said that her podmates, “are mostly on [their] phones during free time.” However, they enjoy school-organized activities during lunch. Shela and her pod have struck up a solid relationship with their Heschel fellow, Gracie. “We’ll talk to her about movies and books, and she gives us advice about school. We all listen to music together,” Shela said. Shela’s pod also enjoys engaging in debates about a variety of subjects, but specifically politics. “It’s all civil discourse, though!” Shela emphasized.
Whether it’s to make up for the lack of social interaction outside of school or just to fill downtime, it’s clear that students are making more of an effort to partake in group activities and talk to one another this year. As the threat of returning fully to remote learning creeps up on the Heschel community this winter, it’s likely that students will feel added pressure to make the most of their time together.