Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo's orchids. (Photo courtesy of Portillo)

Feats, flaws, findings: A glimpse of quarantine life for administrators, faculty, students

Inspired by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Octagon asked administrators, teachers and students about their best and worst habits picked up during the quarantine as well as their best discoveries. 

Head of school Lee Thomsen

Best habit: “I’ve been regularly doing The New York Times’ seven-minute workout. It’s a high-intensity workout with 30-second intervals of exercise and 10 seconds of rest. It’s designed to get your heart rate up to an effective level for a workout but only takes seven minutes.”

Worst habit: “Eating too much ice cream. My favorite flavor is sea salt caramel gelato.”

Discovery: “With my shortened attention span, reading novels of 150 pages or fewer enables me to get the satisfaction of a longer work while not having to invest a huge amount of time. Right now I’m reading ‘Who Will Run the Frog Hospital,’ by Lorrie Moore.”

Head of high school Brooke Wells

Best habit: “Making a really good cup of tea. Because I’m not at school, I’ve been using an assortment. One of my particular favorites is called Assam Superb.”

Worst habit: “I used to get up at 5:30, exercise and read the paper, and now I get up at 7 and have a cup of tea.”

Discovery: “A lot of respect for my kids’ teachers and what they do to teach little people how to read and write. I also just started ‘The Heights’ by Peter Hedges, which is wonderful. And I’ve discovered the joy of napping in a hammock.”

Chemistry teacher Victoria Conner

Best habit: “I bought myself a new bicycle, and I have been taking little rides around my neighborhood every day. The rides are just 30 minutes to an hour, but it has been a wonderful way to get some air and exercise.”

Worst habit: “I have been binge-watching Netflix. I turn on the television just to have a little noise in the house during the day.”

Discovery: “A rediscovery of my love of baking. There is something very meditative about baking. I’ve made many loaves of bread, cookies and brownies. I’m looking forward to doing more — baking is chemistry, after all, so what’s not to love?”

Physics teacher Glenn Mangold

Best habit: “Doing chores –- lots of yard work, as we have a blackberry bush covering the lower third of our backyard, and washing my wife’s new car (Tesla Model 3).”

Worst habit: “Since the Boston Marathon was canceled, I quit my training diet. I’ve been eating a lot of chocolate, especially to get me through tedious online grading. It’s either my worst new habit or my best new habit, depending on your point of view.”

Discovery: “The online tools that have enabled my classes to continue, namely the PhET lab simulations. Also, learning how to make and edit videos and use Screencast-o-Matic.”

Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo

Best habit: “As soon as I’m feeling anxiety about being indoors for so long, I go outside and start gardening. I have some orchids indoors as well.”

Worst habit: “Snacking. I have three college students in the house. While they (were at) college, there were hardly any sweets at home. Now that they’re here and have a little bit more time on their hands, they’re baking a lot more. Some of the stuff they’re making — brownies, bagels, cinnamon rolls, peanut butter squares and English muffins — is really good!”

Discovery: “I started doing Sudoku puzzles about three months ago and found them helpful to keep my mind away from everything. Now I do at least one puzzle per day, usually before I go to sleep. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. You want to have positive feelings amid the uncertainty of the times we are living!”

Portillo’s garden, which she has worked on during the quarantine. (Photo courtesy of Portillo)

Senior Anu Krishnan

Best habit: “Productivity-wise, I have been finishing my work early in the day. Then fun-wise, I color and read a lot.”

Worst habit: “I’ve been staying up pretty late –- 11:00 to 11:30 most nights –- but not sleeping in.”

Discovery: “I really like reading memoirs! I have read ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover, ‘Being Mortal’ by Atul Gawande and ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi. I also read mysteries and classics.”

Junior Carter Joost

Best habit: “A daily run. I usually go at around 6:30 in the evening. I added it to my exercise routine for a Boy Scout requirement and have been enjoying it ever since.”

Worst habit: “Sleeping in. I sleep until around 8, 8:30. I used to wake up at 6:30.”

Discovery: “I read in the Wikipedia page about keratin that spiders and other silk producers evolved keratin separately from vertebrates. It’s important because it highlights the diversity of uses keratin has.  I like to research specific tangents like this one, and being in quarantine has given me more of an opportunity to do so.”

Sophomore Zola Grey

Best habit: “I run around my neighborhood every day. I started running in sixth grade but stopped when I came to high school.”

Worst habit: “Eating a bunch.”

Discovery: “I can bake now. I like to bake cookies and cakes, and I used to be horrible at baking, but now I’ve got the hang of it. Also, “Outer Banks” is my obsession.”

Freshman Emily Cook

Best habit: “Using my computer and learning tricks and hacks, like setting up the school computer to better play games. I’m just playing around with it. It’s fun.”

Worst habit: “Being lazy and watching a lot of TV. I’ve been watching ‘Legacies’ (on The CW) and ‘Outer Banks’ on Netflix.”

Discovery:  “I found a lot of good movies and shows such as ‘6 Underground,’ ‘Saving Hope’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ Also, I’ve figured out how to work electronics better.”

— By Samhita Kumar

Originally published in the May 26 issue of the Octagon.

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