April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The School Year Takes Its Final Bow

As I write this, I’m cur­rently in the middle of my final exams, which are just as much fun as you can imagine. After being tortured throughout the whole year year by sine graphs, obscure Tanach sourc­es, enough Spanish vocabulary to fill a dic­tionary, novels for English class (fine, I’ll ad­mit that I like those, except when the author goes on a tangent about fabrics and jewels— I’m looking at you, Oscar Wilde), and chem­istry formulas that might stymie Isaac New­ton, now I get to be tortured by those things in the space of just two weeks! I’m exagger­ating, but finals definitely are not a fun time. But enough about finals—by the time this gets published, I’ll be finished and finally be­ginning summer break, which is the quintes­sential teenager light at the end of the tun­nel. (I can predict now that reading this once I’m on break will make me laugh hysterically.)

Looking back at my school year overall, I feel that the best word that I would use to de­fine it would be… busy. Not a particularly ex­citing word, I know, but it’s the one I would choose nonetheless. This year has been packed with a thousand different classes, as­signments, essays, tests, events, clubs, and 45 different varieties of joy and stress.

Let me take you through my typical Monday morning schedule at Ramaz Upper School, starting at 8:50 when the first peri­od begins. (I’ll leave out my whole wakeup and commute routine for now, although that could be a whole story in itself.) The day starts with history, a class I enjoy—a great venue for practicing my speed-typing skills, since I do my best to take notes on my laptop (and oc­casionally type out jokes to my sister, who sits next to me). Then there’s math, which I have a love-hate relationship with. On one hand, I enjoy working out problems as if they’re little jigsaw puzzles; on the other hand… they’re problems, not puzzles, and all the fun gets sucked out of them once I get stuck. The day continues with English (get ye olde and new literature here, if thou wishest); Tanach (which, interestingly, often delves into the psychology of people; it’s never just dry text), and health (which sadly does not cover sleep deprivation, a chronic misfortune I often suf­fer). At least there are elevators you can use to travel through the building… if they come on time. (Official slogan of Ramaz elevators: So crowded that you might suffocate, but at least you might get to class quicker!)

At this point, mercifully (12:50 p.m.), it’s time for lunch. Then comes the afternoon, with classes like Hebrew language and Tal­mud (I love working through the arguments, but wish Rava could get along with everyone sometimes) and Spanish and all of my other secular and Judaic classes… but I think you get my point.

It’s exhausting just to write this all out, so I’m hoping you get a sense or can relate to the whirlwind that is the school day. (Re­member, that was only the first half of a Mon­day!) Still, that’s not everything. Throughout the year I’ve had to work on a long histo­riography paper—instead of just talking about history, I got to study how other peo­ple talk about history and why. Quite a shift. And there are always essays, nightly math and chemistry homework, tests every week to study/cram for, and the like. But wait. I’m not finished just yet. I like telling people that tenth grade has been one big scheduling conflict. In the beginning of the year, I was a part of the school musicals, which met on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays for a few months. Then I also studied hard for the Chi­don HaTanach, which met weekly at lunch. I joined the film club, which worked on a few shorts and met on Thursdays. I tested out my new camera in photography club on Tues­days, did a writing program on Wednesdays, and wrote for a few school publications some nights. There sometimes seemed to be no time left in the day, and I often found myself having a hard time fitting everything in. The natural solution, of course, was to create an­other day of the week. I’ve named it Orenday, and submitted a thousand-word proposal to the governor’s office to have him review it. Just kidding. (The governor would be too busy dealing with the bridge scandal to read any of my proposals anyway.)

Take a deep breath; I know that was a lot. It’s been, as I said, quite a whirlwind school year. But now it’s nearly over. So, looking back at it, was it worth it? Do I feel like I’ve gained from it? Was packing in so many classes and assignments and tests and clubs worth the struggle? Have I grown from all of it?

Ask almost anyone from ages 10 to 17, at least, and they’ll probably tell you that they hate school. I wonder if I should feel the same way. Wouldn’t I rather just hang with friends all day and not be subjected to a ton of schoolwork misery? Maybe, but when I think about how busy the school year can get, I find myself relishing it in a way. The challenge of staying on top of everything, getting eve­rything done, putting in as much effort as I can into both clubs and classes… and then looking back at it all and seeing how much I’ve done. It’s a crazy feeling. Just a year ago, could I have risen to this task? I don’t think so—which means that I’ve changed. I can feel like I’ve gained something, the personal strength to persevere. And that’s a great way to cap off the school year.

(For the record, I never said I liked school too much. Just in case the NSA or some of my friends are reading this.)

Oren Oppenheim, age 16, lives in Fair Lawn, New Jer­sey and attends Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan. He spends his free time writing and reading, and hopes to become a published novelist. You can email him at [email protected].

By Oren Oppenheim

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