What began as a virtual classroom assignment to write and submit a letter-to-the-editor to The New York Times resulted in the publication of sophomore Margaret Sprigg-Dudley's letter about the social effects of the coronavirus.
"I sent it in on Wednesday, and later that day I got an email back," Margaret said. "They had made some edits and asked if they were OK. I responded, 'yes they could.'" On Friday, she received another email informing her that the letter would be published on-line that day.
The exercise was an assignment for her Honors English 10 class taught my Pat Dunn. Students looked at the New York Times and were asked to write a letter-to-the-editor commenting on a story they had read in the newspaper. Dunn sent the students information on how to submit a letter to The Times.
Margaret chose to comment on a March 31 article entitled, "How to Catch Someone's Eye While Social Distancing" by Erin Aubry Kaplan, an opinion contributor who wrote about the challenge to connect with others while social distancing.
"I was looking at all the articles on the main page," Margaret said. "I wasn't sure I wanted to write about the coronavirus, but all the articles on the page were about the virus. I chose one more uplifting. I did identify with that article because I had gone out walking and started talking to my neighbors."
Now, Margaret is looking for more articles about topics that might inspire her to write more letters to the Times. "It was just a lot of fun to do it."
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Click on the link to the original article, and Margaret's letter below.
To the Editor:
Re "How to Catch Someone's Eye While Social Distancing" by Erin Aubry Kaplan (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, March 31):
It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone in the age of Covid-19 is starving for human connection. One unexpected side effect of the coronavirus is that my neighbors have gotten friendlier.
I live in a small town outside Cincinnati, and though the small-town stereotype of not being able to walk very far without seeing someone I know does ring true, I don't talk to my neighbors all that much. But Ms. Kaplan is right: Rules change the game. Now that we can't interact, everyone needs to. It wasn't like this before.
We've all had those conversations: You're happily walking by yourself when someone you know stops to chat. You're stuck there, wondering: How long will this last? Why do they have so much to say? Can I fake a family emergency? This doesn't happen so much anymore; we all feel that urge to connect.
Now, every time I go on a walk, I am stopped by multiple neighbors (standing more than six feet away) wanting to chat. And every conversation is refreshing. I am greeted by people I've never met, and it's great to hear how they're doing.
Disease is universal, fear is universal. Maybe friendliness can be universal, too.
The writer is a high school student.