The Prism: Every Side of the Story

In the Room to On the Zoom: A Special Inaugural Edition with Our Headmaster

March 13. The date that has been marked in our minds. The day our sense of normalcy was erased. The announcement that changed our lives forever. It has been nearly eight months since, and we are still living under the same circumstances. Students and teachers – divided between remote and in-person learning – and families – still separated by the states they reside in – “Thanksgiving and Christmas will be on Zoom this year!” Nothing is normal, and yet, we have learned to adapt to our “new lives.” It soon became my mission to understand our abilities to adapt and observe our own transitions from life “In the Room to On the Zoom.”

Headmaster O’Connell is one to testify to the impact that the Corona Virus has had on both his life and his career. Through a recent interview, I received a glimpse of what running a school in the midst of a pandemic looks like. 

“This is your first full year serving as Headmaster of LWA. How have these unfortunate circumstances affected or impacted your experience here?” 

O’Connell took a deep sigh and began, “Well, I thought I was just taking a new job, but I really got a new job … Some of the things I’m best at, I  can’t even leverage in this non-face-to-face environment … It’s harder to have meaningful meetings with people unless they are in the room with you.” 

“An extremely relevant topic right now is stress management. During these times, it is more crucial than ever to discover ways to cope with stress and anxiety. How do you personally deal with these emotions?”

When I was working at home, I was never really not working. I was never off and that’s not healthy … This morning, I started day one up in my attic, on my elliptical … Exercise is very important to me.” Mr. O’Connell also mentions, “I balance my intensity with humor …We all have stress and it doesn’t go away, so we all need a toolbox to help us deal with those stresses.”

“What was one of the most challenging decisions you have had to make as Headmaster so far?”

“This has been hard because I lost a lot of really good people … I lost some support that I’d really appreciate right now if I had it, but a crisis like this makes people make life-changing decisions. It’s just sad that I could have used a few more people that really were part of the LWA long-standing history to help me navigate the transition in a way.” 

“Recently, there have been many closures of Long Island schools due to COVID-19. Will we have to close too? How can we keep our LWA spirit alive if we resort to full remote learning again?”

“Well, we have to dig into our playbook that we were fortunate to have with Ms. Fromowitz and the whole crew last year … I hope you guys [students] know how to network with each other. But, I worry a lot about my teachers.” O’Connell compares the lack of hope felt during the pandemic to his worries after Hurricane Sandy devastated his Far Rockaway home. “My neighborhood looked so bad, I didn’t think it was going to recover … But I kept saying to myself, ‘One day at a time.’ Every day, break rock. Every day, get something done. Every day in remote learning, find something positive. Just get through one day at a time. What are the other options?”

“You constantly refer to LWA as Tiger Tough. Chloe Albucker asks, ‘How do you think Lawrence Woodmere Academy will demonstrate our strength and emerge from this year stronger?”’

“As a whole, this is a pretty cool student body. I’m seeing awesome signs of mature, independent, and intelligent students that want to be part of the solutions and the conversations to make not just the school better, but to help their LWA classmates make the world better … The way we will be “Tiger Tough” and get through this crisis is by continuing to be the best versions of ourselves.” 

“Ultimately, What is one goal you hope to achieve this year?” 

“Survive!” he chuckles. “I want to establish a foundation and a way of LWA business that is organized and structured, so we can continue to build different layers each year and improve. [The goal is] to reboot LWA in the middle of a crisis, come out ‘Tiger Tough’ in terms of who we are (and how we are getting better as human beings), and fix this organization so it can get bigger over time. We have to be confident! We have to be in it to win it!”

Thanks to our Headmaster’s positive outlook on life, adapting to the alterations that the Corona Virus has made in our lives seems far more attainable. Like Mr. O’Connell, every day we must break rock and get something done. Be more positive and overlook the negative! Take it one day at a time. After all, “what are the other options?”

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The PRISM Press is the student written, edited, and published newspaper of Lawrence Woodmere Academy © 2019