As drum major for the Ottawa Hills Marching Band, Rohit Mukherjee is used to keeping rhythm and maintaining structure. Those skills are coming in handy as he completes his senior year at home.
“It’s definitely unfortunate and a little depressing,” Rohit said of the shelter-in-place orders. “However, I understand the situation we’re in needs us to take these measures, and I’m hoping we can find a way to recreate a couple of the events we missed once this is over.”
Like many Ottawa hills households, the Mukherjee home is busier than normal during the implementation of the district’s Remote Learning Plan. In addition to having dad (Sumit) at home, son Adit (class of 2017) is home early from Purdue University. Mom (Paramita) is enjoying the extended family time, and even special treats like meals cooked for her.
“Rohit and Adit have taken turns to cook dinner and that has been a revelation as sometimes their cooking is better than ours,” Mrs. Mukherjee said. “Though I think if we had it repeated a couple of times, the novelty would wear off.”
Needless to say, the remote learning plan has disrupted routines – such as who functions as the alarm clock.
“One of the main things that is different starts with my morning schedule,” Mr. Mukherjee said. “Typically Rohit has been my ‘alarm clock’ as he has been up and ready in the morning around 6:30 a.m. for his 7:15 a.m. class. Now, however, I have to actually use the alarm clock to get ready for work!”
With two students studying at home, the days are necessarily more quiet. Afternoons and evenings are spent together with family walks, dinner and a favorite show or movie, and talking to grandparents in India and friends across the country via WhatsApp calls or Zoom meetings. “It is good that we are at least all together during these uncertain times,” Mrs. Mukherjee said.
For active families like theirs, the stay-at-home order has a silver lining.
“I hardly saw Rohit because he has a very active schedule, and after school he had either track practice or prep for the musical and some days I didn’t see him until 10 p.m.,” Mr. Mukherjee said. “Now, most days when I return he is there at home.”
Just three years ago, Adit enjoyed the tradition-rich senior year at Ottawa Hills. Now, Rohit will not have most of those memories. “It has been both frustrating and depressing at times but we discuss that as a family and understand that everyone is in the same situation,” Mr. Mukherjee said.
For Rohit, gone is the chance to be on the track and field team (he was on the 4x100 team last year that finished second in the state) and on stage as Sky in the spring musical “Mamma Mia!”
“I was really looking forward to my track season, and for that to have been cancelled was upsetting,” Rohit said. “That being said, I’m still staying active while maintaining social-distancing rules and getting some fresh air every day.”
Because of his many extracurricular interests, he was able to travel to both Toronto and New York City earlier this year during performance tours of the Symphonic Band and Choraliers, respectively.
With four Advanced Placement classes on his schedule (Physics, Calculus, French, and Computer Science), Rohit’s academic load is heavier than most OH students. Learning remotely has been positive for the most part, he said.
“The classes are more efficient with less interruptions to the teacher,” Rohit said. “However, it’s harder for teachers to pick up on non-verbal clues when we are not understanding a concept, especially since sometimes we don’t know how to form a question around what we don’t know.”
At times, it seems classes are short but having them twice a week helps address that deficiency, Rohit said. “The online aspect has resulted in more students regularly checking their emails and are getting better at staying organized,” he added.
Rohit attends his online classes either in his room or at the dining room table (if he is seeking a more structured and formal setting). The 18-year-old is not only a member of Student Council (serving as the group’s Sergeant-at-Arms), he also was on his way to again earning four varsity letters (cross-country, basketball, band, and track and field). So he is very capable of working independently and meeting deadlines.
“We know he will make good decisions when it comes to going outside, maintaining social distancing, and allocating appropriate time for entertainment, school work, and socializing,” Mrs. Mukherjee. “Besides, in a couple of months, he will be off to college and managing a lot of this by himself, so it is a good trial run in that sense.”
Rohit plans to study mechanical engineering and business and expects to make his final college choice soon. Until then, he’s trying not to think about the what-ifs of his interrupted senior year.
“Honestly, I took school for granted, and I think a lot of us did,” Rohit said. “Not being able to finish the school year and have those extra memories is something we were all looking forward to. Nonetheless, I am definitely looking forward to seeing and hanging out with my friends again.”