What a Senior Slump looks like in the age of HM Online

Yin Fei, Staff Writer

Typically during the long-awaited spring, you might find members of the senior class on Alumni Field “slumping” with relief—playing water pong with speakers blasting music and comical senior backpacks strewn to the side. Instead, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the only “slumping” taking place for the graduating class is when they roll out of bed minutes before firing up their weekly Zooms.

For some seniors, “slumping” has become even more convenient thanks to HM Online. Along with the general lack of motivation after hearing from colleges, Dylan Chin (12) said that the technological perks of virtual school, and the screen barriers that it supplies, have allowed him to avoid busy work this spring.

“The hard part of just not doing work when you’re in person was having to see your teachers in person, every day in the halls and just the awkwardness of that being like, ‘hey I didn’t turn in this paper,’ since they’re right there,” Chin said. “So it’s much easier to do that online because you can just not see them and delete the email that they sent asking about the assignment.”

On the other hand, math teacher and former Dean of the Class of 2019 Nicholas Perry said that he has noticed that seniors are slumping less than in past years. “Folks are getting their work in, and even the ones who get it in late are doing so without much intervention from me,” he said.

Through her interactions with students, Head Librarian Caroline Bartels said she has also recognized a change in behavior in this year compared to before. Normally around this point of the spring semester, what tends to happen is that the students truly begin to appreciate a book read during English class or start to be genuinely engaged in a really cool math problem they want to figure out, Bartels said. “I just don’t know if it is [happening] now, because people are mostly like ‘oh my god I’m just so sick of being online.’”

Luke Weber (12) said that a main reason remote learning has impeded the seniors’ ability to slump is because they aren’t sure how to properly unwind. Without the familiar faces and celebratory energy of their peers on campus serving as a signal for the successful completion of their high school careers, seniors are finding that “slumping” in the traditional sense is undeniably more challenging, he said.

“Goofing off with your friends in class or just talking to people face-to-face isn’t exactly the same as speaking on your computer six hours a day,” Jayer Yang (12) said.

Euwan Kim (12) attributes this pattern to the difficulty of slacking off during virtual learning. While it is easier to stay in bed for, or even skip class, technology provides constant reminders that work still needs to be done, she said.

“We always describe Horace Mann as a pressure cooker, but, in this case, you never get to let out that steam,” Kim said.

“Since everything’s online, they [teachers] feel inclined to check stuff more often, or give stuff that should be checked, which means just more graded things in general,” Jasper Heymann (12) said.

However even without the accountability system in place, Charlotte Konopko (12) found that the need to match the work that her teachers were putting in, was something that eventually disrupted her chance to slump, she said.

“I know they were all working so hard to make sure that it was still engaging for the seniors, so I wanted to continue to do the work that one has to do,” Konopko said.

A majority of seniors have expressed a similar conflict and frustration with HM Online, as it has affected their usual opportunities to make memories with friends and faculty without the incessant demand of school work.

“Traditionally, Senior Spring is the time where you can just enjoy yourself, enjoy the company of your classmates and not necessarily have to worry so much about testing,” Diana Shaari (12) said.

“It’s about missing out on the subtle things, like being able to meet with a teacher and instead of going over work the entire time, simply talking to them because you’re not as stressed about those assignments,” Amiya Mehrotra (12) said.

Dean of the Class of 2020 Stephanie Feigin also sympathizes with her students because she has witnessed how important it is to be able to relax during Senior Spring, she said. “I’ve promised them for years now, ‘just wait until your senior year,’ so I definitely am really sad that they are missing out on so many spring traditions they were looking forward to.”

In addition to missing the slump, Mehrotra said that as the chances of a return to school became less likely, both students and faculty were left discouraged at the loss of school-affiliated, congratulatory events held in the second semester.

“The other day I had to be up on campus, and though the field looked so beautiful without all the kids tearing it apart, I have to say I got a little teary-eyed,” Bartels said. “Usually I get to spend all this time with them, doing a movie night, doing the scavenger hunt through Tillinghast, and getting ready for their prom by dealing with the prom drama, so it is really devastating in that sense.”

The cancelation of multiple cornerstone senior year events makes their last days feel less special, Yang said.

“Senior Dorr was something I, personally, was really looking forward to because past senior classes have always told me it’s fun when getting to hang out with all your friends in the middle of nowhere,” Heymann said.

Previously “the third trimester,” senior spring is something that people have been anticipating for many years, since it’s the culmination of high school, Shaari said. “I have two older siblings that have gone through Horace Mann, so I know how exciting those events are, as they are a nice way to wrap up your time there.”

Despite the tough situation, students are still actively working to overcome virtual barriers to keep a number of senior traditions alive.

“They’ve done some stuff on Instagram and Facebook, which I’m not a part of, and they are just trying to somehow replicate celebrating one another, even if in smaller ways,” Feigin said. “They still wear their shirts when they are going to school and they still have those celebratory cheers about decisions they are making.”

In terms of graduation, however, Feigin said she still remains hopeful for an attempt at closure. On June 10, though it isn’t ideal, they’ll be a moment to recognize students’ accomplishments through a virtual commencement that will have live moments and some pre-taped components, she said.

Though the ending appears bittersweet, several seniors and teachers are also adamant about finding the positives within their future plans.

“I know that even if I don’t get to say goodbye to my teachers this year, I’m gonna come back, and I’m gonna say goodbye to everybody in person, and I’m gonna see my friends again,” Weber said. “It’s not gonna be that moving moment I’ve been waiting for, but we’ve got to make the best out of what we have.”

“It’s actually something that will pull them all together,” Bartels said. “This is going to be a defining moment in this generation’s history, and so hopefully, even if they’re not in that space yet, a couple of years from now, when they’re adults or when this grade comes to to their reunion, they will look back on this, and be like, ‘that was crazy, man, but I survived it.’”