Fidget Spinners: Why They’re So Popular and What People Actually Think About Them Reply

What comes to mind when you think of fidget spinners? To the students of BSGE, they bring on mixed opinions. Approximately 66 students were surveyed for their opinions on the toys; whether they completely hated, liked, or were indifferent to them. Here is what they had to say:

Given the current backlash fidget spinners receive, a surprising 40.9% of responders said that they liked the toys, while 30.3% claimed they disliked the spinners, and 28.8% were indifferent on the matter, neither liking nor disliking them. When asked if they have ever owned a fidget spinner, the majority of responders (68.2%) said that they had, and only 31.8% said that they hadn’t. An even bigger difference percentage-wise happened when the responders were asked if they’d ever used the spinners, in which an overwhelming 89.4% of people said that they had, and only 10.6% said that they hadn’t.

Why did they respond in this way?

When asked why they liked fidget spinners, the vast majority of people simply said it was all down to the fact that they spun, with Brandon C. ‘18 simply responding with, “They spin.”. Multiple others said the same. A sizeable amount of people also claimed it was because of their initial purpose to help children with ADD/ADHD, and on this, Kayla P. ‘20 says, “They can really help people with attention/movement issues.”

On why they disliked fidget spinners, almost all the responders said it was because they were “annoying”, with many specifically citing how distracting they could be. Edward S. ‘23 and Agomoni S. ‘23 said, “They keep you occupied”, and “They’re a complete waste of time and don’t help anything”. Many responders also noted the noise that the spinners made to be irritating, with Sara H. ‘18 saying, “They’re useless and annoying to hear spin”. Alexis W. ‘22 stated, “They do make noise sometimes and it gets really annoying when people use them in class.”.

Despite the controversy and conflicting opinions, Arif E. ‘20 sums it up when he says, “I mean, they are harmless toys. They can understandably be pretty fun to play around with,” since that’s all fidget spinners are; popular toys of 2017.

 

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Teacher of the Month: Mrs. Klidonas Reply

Where did you grow up?

I was born in New York and lived here for 10 years. I moved back to Greece with my family and stayed in Greece until I was 22 years old. I then moved back to New York for my Master’s degree.

Why did you move back to Greece?

My family decided they wanted to move back to Greece, as that is where my parents are from. They sold a house that we owned here and decided that with money, they could start a new life in Greece.

What was it like living in Greece?

It was very hard at first. I didn’t speak the language very well and I needed a lot of extra help with grammar, literature, and even math—math was taught in a very different way in Greece. My parents hired a private tutor for me to guide me through my work. Even though it was hard to communicate with people, due to not speaking the language, some things I enjoyed were the weather and a more laidback school life. However, I still would always miss New York and would want to go back.

Did you experience anything new in Greece that you wouldn’t have experienced if you hadn’t moved?

First of all, I wouldn’t have met very important people in my life. If I had not moved to Greece, I would not have met my husband. I would not have had a lot of people in my life, meaning friends, and the opportunity to get to know a lot of my relatives. I also am very appreciative of the fact that I had schooling abroad. If I had studied in New York, I think I would not have had the opportunity to do a lot of after school activities and become fluent in Greek.

Where did you previously work?

I have been in the field of education for ten years and the first class I taught was a Greek afternoon class. I previously worked at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School for International Careers.

Which college did you attend? What was your major?

I attended the University of Athens, where I majored in American/British Literature. I completed my Master’s degree in English Adolescent Education at Hunter College.

What kind of a student were you in high school?

As a student, I cared about my grades and was the kind to always seek extra credit. I had always liked reading, writing, and debating, and even as a student, I was extremely interested in English.

Were you always interested in teaching literature?

I’ve always wanted to teach, however, the real turning point for me was in college, where I sat for many classes reading literature intensely. There was one class where we read Jane Austen intensely for a whole semester, and during that time, I ended up imagining myself teaching literature in the future. This is when I realized I wanted a future in teaching.

Speaking of literature, what books, if any, have you read recently that have stood out to you?

I’m a member of a book club at Astoria Bookshop called the Feminist Book Club. We recently covered a graphic novel called Fun Home that I really enjoyed. It was a story about a young girl who came out to her parents. It speaks about her father who was also homosexual, featuring his struggles with his identity and trying to hide that. Even though I’m not a huge fan of graphic novels, this particular book changed my view.

What do you like most about BSGE? What do you like about your students?

I really enjoy the multiple perspectives in the classroom. The experiences and culture of students really shine in the classroom. I guess what I like most about BSGE would have to be the students. The students like English class and take it seriously. This reveals a lot about their character and future.

What kind of standards do you hold your students to?

I have very high standards for my students. Ultimately, it depends on what we do in class. Participation will always go a long way though. I also like to have a rubric or a grading guide that is fair for both the student and the complexity of the assignment.

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

I would like to be a writer or open up a bookshop in my neighborhood. In the case of the bookshop, customers wouldn’t have to pay; they could just read in the bookshop. If I weren’t a teacher, I would just like a job in the field of literature.

What are your hobbies?

I love travelling whenever I have the opportunity. I like doing activities with my children. I also love listening to music, especially Bob Dylan. I obviously love reading also, and I’m pretty sad that I don’t have enough time to read books just for myself.

Where have you traveled before?

I love to travel a lot. Unfortunately, my traveling experiences are limited to two continents. I’ve visited the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, and many others. I also like to travel within the US every opportunity I get, whether it’s a day trip somewhere in the Northeast or a long weekend trip across the country. Whatever good deal my husband can find with our airfare and the miles we collect is one we’ll take. We’ll always make sure to bring our children along as well.

What kind of activities do you do with your children?

I love taking them to “storytime”. We either go to the local library here in Astoria or Astoria Bookshop. During the summer, I would bring them every Thursday morning and they would have half an hour of storytime. I love taking them to the park. They can play with their friends and I can easily watch over them. I also take them to art classes whenever I can, but my older son also takes swimming classes while my younger son takes music classes. We like just doing things that are in season and that I know that they’ll enjoy.

What/who drew you to BSGE?

I live in Astoria so I know the area well. Because of that, I had heard about the school and its rigorous curriculum. However, it was ultimately the IB program that drew me to this school because it isn’t offered in many other places in NYC.

Absence of the PSAT for the Tenth Grade Reply

Every year, the PSATs (NMSQT) are administered to students in the tenth and eleventh grade. They are meant to give students the chance to understand the content of the SATs, and how much they need to study for them. For those in the eleventh grade, it is a chance to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, which enables high scoring students to be contacted by prestigious universities. This year, most students in NYC sat down on October 11th to take the test, but not the tenth graders of BSGE.

Less than a week before the PSAT, tenth graders were told that they would not be taking the test, leading to many complaints of its absence. The lack of a notice for the cancellation left many wondering why the school was not able to inform students earlier, and why steps were not taken to ensure there would be a solution to it. An anonymous student said, “It would have helped tremendously if the school staff decided to convey this information to us at least two weeks in advance. If the students were told of this earlier, we could have conversed with our parents and overall have more time to bargain with the principal on terms on which to take the PSAT.” The test was supposed to play a crucial part in preparing for next year’s SATs—a seemingly critical test in the college application process. Boguniecki ’20 agreed to this, saying they felt as if “it is a good practice that allows for the students to know what to expect on the future test and what to study for in that year-long gap between now and the SAT test day.” There was definitely anger and confusion felt by the tenth grade, with no official notice being given out. It took word of mouth and a few students repeatedly inquiring about it in order for students to be first informed about the lack of the test. While it was still the beginning of the year, there was overall agreement that better organization was needed for students to be well informed about the workings of the school. The year has just started, but it can be agreed that a more efficient form of informing students on important information is needed as soon as possible.

Some were outraged that the school could not administer the test as it has a relatively cheap cost.  Registration for the test is $16 per student. While this fee is usually covered by the school or DOE, that was not the case this year. Salkanovic ‘20 said, “ I do believe that the students would be willing to pay for some if not most of it themselves, as it would personally help them in the future with scholarships and college administration.” Indeed, in the aftermath of the revelation, many discussed their willingness to pay the fee themselves, just for the opportunity to be able to take it. While it is understood that budgeting has been a persistent concern for the school, students are prepared to work together to provide the funds for aspects that the school cannot cover.

As parents got wind of the cancellation, many began to contact the school and complain about this. Around the grade, students told tales of how annoyed their parents were that they would not be taking the PSATs. Due to this, the school is now administering the test for the tenth grade, this February, in order for students to get the practice that they need. As for why the test was cancelled in the first place, it has been rumored that it was due to the DOE no longer funding the test and BSGE not having enough space.

As February approaches, anxiety for the tenth graders has been building up. Good luck to everyone who will be taking the test!

Overbooked Seventh Grade Schedules? Reply

In the first year of their BSGE career, many seventh graders are ecstatic about having such a large variety of clubs to join. However, this results in a large problem–many new students have gotten a bit too excited and decided to join one club for each day of the week. These students try to pledge every spare minute of their time to school. While there is nothing wrong with being devoted to BSGE, students need some spare time. Many seventh grade students spend every waking moment they have juggling clubs, homework, and volunteer work. Many Seventh graders no longer have spare time to spend with their families or engage in personal leisure time. Moments of rest are only acquired when multiple teachers are extremely forgiving and decide not to assign homework. Too much dedication can result in high levels of stress, which isn’t beneficial for anyone.

All of this is coming from a 7th grader who spends every day buried in tasks to complete. Mondays are booked until 3:30 for Helping Hands meetings. Wednesday is dedicated to the Robotics club. On Thursdays, I am typing away on the BaccRag. Lastly, on Fridays, I attend P.I.N.C. subcommittee meetings. I also do a large amount of volunteer work over the weekends and on holidays. Multiple others that I know have very similar schedules. For many of us, Tuesday is not a free day either; it is reserved for sports like basketball and dance.

One 7th grader with a particularly overbooked schedule is Mehak R. ‘23. Her schedule consists of Helping Hands on Monday, personal basketball on Tuesday, Robotics on Wednesday, and P.I.N.C sub-committee meetings on Friday. Her time is also filled with basketball games and volunteer work. When asked about her thoughts on her packed schedule, she said, “I don’t always want to do it all, but I feel like I have to because I want a good job.” Many people constantly feel the weight of their future resting on their shoulders.

Another seventh grader who has an overbooked schedule is Camille P. ‘23, who holds the same schedule as Mehak R. ‘23. When questioned about her schedule, she responded with, ”I sometimes feel very stressed about my future and I am not used to this busy schedule.”

Many students still struggle with adjusting to their schedules. It is tough on the students and builds stress. Regardless, these busy schedules are sure to provide the Class of 2023 with successful BSGE futures.

 

Eczema: Not Just A Punch Line Reply

October was Eczema Awareness Month, and as someone who has continuously struggled with it since birth, I have been quite literally itching to talk about it. 

Skin issues run in the family; my brother and sister had eczema, my aunt had skin rashes as a kid, and my nephews deal with it as well. Until my first nephew, my eczema was the worst my immediate family had ever seen. The raw blistering rashes plagued my face, neck, stomach, elbows, legs — my whole body. At such a young age, I was exposed to countless steroidal creams, moisturizers, and even oral steroidal medicine to subdue the pain. Of course, time was only the most consistent and effective remedy.

Growing up was difficult, with the trauma extending far past my skin, leaving scars that couldn’t be seen in the physical keloids on the inside of my elbows. As a young child, I couldn’t understand why it was so itchy, or why my mom would get mad when I succumbed to the temptation to scratch. Obviously, it was because I was literally tearing away at my skin and putting myself in more pain, and she didn’t want that. What mother would just sit back while her daughter ruined her body, even if it was involuntary? We tried everything past the medicine: wearing gloves or socks on my hands–yet the friction of the fabric would always find a way to relieve the itch— or placing warm damp towels on my rashes. Sure, the itch was overpowered by the pain of the temperature and water, but the water would just make it itchier. I even resorted to hitting it instead of itching. Nonetheless, the itching persisted.

It wasn’t until I started going to school that I finally realized that this wasn’t normal. I thought every kid was like this. Don’t get me wrong, many kids are; the countless “Oh you have eczema? I had that when I was younger, but I grew out of it”s got redundant quickly. The point is that no one around me was like that. Every other kid I knew swam in the ocean without the salt water torturing him or her. Every other kid I knew wore spaghetti strap tank tops without glaring red patches on his or her shoulders. Every other kid I knew didn’t stutter and feel isolated when someone pointed on his or her arms asking, “What’s that?”

I don’t think I ever consciously started linking all of this to my skin until about third grade when I transferred to a different school because of its Gifted and Talented program. My first year the school still had uniforms, so I was able to hide behind long sleeved white collar shirts until it got to late Spring, when it was too hot to function. I remember one instance so vividly; it was one of the first times I stopped caring about hiding because it was compromising my comfort—as if eczema itself doesn’t do that. One of my close friends pointed at my rashes during lunch and asked me, “Why don’t you hide it?” I have no idea what I said to play it off, but that was one of my earliest memories of actually feeling bad about not having skin like other kids’.

As I progressed through elementary school, my physical appearance stopped being a top priority; hello chapped lips and awkwardly shaped glasses. By pushing back how badly I felt about my skin, I was able to find who I was in something else: my grades. I grew up as the “smart kid” – the stereotypical Asian girl who had glasses, played some musical instrument, and got 100s. Who cared about my skin if everything else about me was perfect? I didn’t. By distracting myself—and hopefully everyone else around me—from my skin, I created an obsession for perfection in every other part of me. Looking back on it now, it was one of the biggest roots of my continuous struggle of accepting that I’m “good enough.” I know a 97 is good, but a 100 is great, and a 105 is even better. While I’ve recently identified this perfectionism as compromising to my mental health, it is still an uphill climb.

Even after fifth grade graduation, sixth grade at my zone school, and seventh and eighth grade at BSGE, my skin was still quite bad. I wasn’t blistering on every inch of my skin, sure, but I was still in constant and excruciating pain. Even simply stretching out my arm would be unbearable. Even with mounds of moisturizer to soothe it, the skin was so raw and dry that it would crack the moment it was taut. Everyday tasks such as taking a shower were made ten times harder. I would have to cup the back of my legs with my hands and bend my elbows while doing this, which resulted in an awkward crouching position, in the shower to make my skin slowly accustomed to the water, which sent sharp and sudden pain when making the slightest contact with any of my rashes. Even when my skin became accustomed to it, washing it with soap was a whole other story.

It was just so frustrating. I knew it was bad for me, so why couldn’t I stop? Why did I consciously relieve the itch temporarily just to bring myself to exponentially greater pain later on? I knew what was wrong with me: I had eczema. But what was wrong with me? I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just use that information to stop and be normal. Even to this day, I mentally yell at myself for scratching. It’s something that I should be able to stop doing, yet I just can’t.

In addition to the obsessive perfectionism and internal self-punishment, the insecurities regarding my skin still linger. Eczema still plagues me, even if it’s just on the back of my neck, inside my legs, and inside my elbows, with the seasonal rashes on my upper chest, back, and shoulders. The steroids have left their permanent marks on my body, from the keloids on my skin to my lack of a growth spurt; all thanks to the medicine I ingested a child. There are so many outfits I wish I had the confidence to wear, had my skin not decided to be so ugly. There are days I wish I could wear makeup without the skin under my eyebrows and my eyelids being flaky. This isn’t even mentioning the number of future situations I’m afraid that I’ll deal with – what if a boy stops liking me because of my skin? Sure, it sounds stupid written down, but I’d like to tell myself that it is a valid fear after 16 years of “Is that contagious?” and “You can always cover it up!” and “You’re still pretty!”.

While a lot of my problems were internalized and self-inflicted, so many of my insecurities and issues with myself were rooted in how other people had viewed me during crucial developmental points of my life. I’m not saying that we’re ever going to stop curious children from trying to learn more about people whose skin doesn’t look like theirs, but by late elementary school and even middle school, you’d think this ignorance would have been expelled already.

The stigma around eczema specifically ranges from being associated with bad hygiene to being the basis of jokes and roasts. It’s something that leaves so many children and teens with long-lasting problems linked to body dysmorphia and other mental illnesses. From simple things such as having a more inquisitive tone as opposed to a disgusted one when asking someone about their eczema, or to larger ways such as supporting eczema cure research, we could minimize these effects. If you’re ever interested in learning more, there are some interesting articles on nationaleczema.org that range from basic information to physical self-care and mental self-help.

How could you do this if you’re someone who deals with eczema? In my opinion, reaching out to other people you see struggling is one of the most effective ways. I will never forget the one time a freshman—at the time—direct messaged me on Instagram when I was in seventh grade, telling me how she understood how I felt and that it does get better with time and treatment. This is almost my way of repaying the universe for bringing her to me; now it’s your turn.

 

BSGE Blackout! Reply

Friday the 13th. A day full of paranoia and caution for some, but a day of anticipation and giddiness for others. BSGE Blackout—which was on October 13th, if you NEVER check your email—was the start to the school’s annual festivities. Last year fostered the Fall Ball and the French Club’s Mardi Gras dance. Both events had mixed reactions, but regardless, both were still successful school-run events. This year’s Blackout was fairly similar in organization to many of the previous dances the school has run; held in the cafegymatorium, balloons, streamers, loud music, the infamous oversized beach ball, strobe lights, and a multitude of excessively sweat-drenched entities trying not to pass out from all the dancing they’ve mustered all their courage to do.

With these mixed reactions, came both receptions of content and pure hatred. Very few provided full-length stories stating the beginning, middle, and end with very prominent opinions on each aspect of every moment. Farah T. ‘22 said, “It couldn’t beat the Fall Ball, but it had a lot of nice people. The seniors made it really fun!” Katherine Y. ‘22 said, “I honestly didn’t have fun, whatsoever. The music wasn’t my taste; it was all rap.” , Maria R. ‘18 said, “ In my opinion, Blackout met my expectations. Our DJ, Eamon, another senior at our school, did a good job of keeping the music upbeat. Even though I was working, I still enjoyed the party atmosphere that the DJ, senior council, and the student body created.”

To conclude this very exciting occasion, the Blackout was one of the many BSGE-related “raves”, full of every reception in the book, ranging from the strongest feeling of dislike to the strongest feeling of ecstasy. This dance will go down in the books as an objectively memorable dance (except for those like me, who were drunk on adrenaline and made pacts with their friends to not bring up anything that happened at Blackout again). Also, for those of you who didn’t attend this was just a very big social gathering where everything that you could imagine to happen, happened.

 

What is the SHSAT? Reply

On Saturday and Sunday, October 21 to 22, New York received a blast of beautiful weather, perhaps the last before winter set in. While people all over the city were relishing in  this fleeting blast of summer, thousands of eighth and ninth grade students gathered at a designated high school in their area to take the formidable SHSAT. Hopes of getting into their dream school were high, with many having prepared for this moment for months, or maybe even years.

The SHSAT, or Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, is an exam used by eight of the nine specialized high schools in New York City to determine whether students were qualified to attend one of the schools. The eight high schools that use the SHSAT in their admission process are Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn High School, Brooklyn Technical School, High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, High School for American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for Sciences at York College, Staten Island Technical High School, and Stuyvesant High School. The ninth Specialized High School is Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, a school that specializes in visual and performing arts, and selects its students through auditions.

To apply to the specialized schools, a student registers through their school’s guidance counselor. On the application form, they must rank the schools they want to apply to from one to eight, with number one being their most desired school and number eight being their least. There are also boxes where one checks off whether they will audition for LaGuardia. These papers were due on October 12. From there, one receives a ticket from their guidance counselor that details the date, time, and location of their test/audition. The last step is taking the test or auditioning.

SHSAT and LaGuardia results are received in mid-March, a time of anticipation and sometimes dread for several New York City eighth (and ninth) graders. Though about 30,000 students take the SHSAT annually, less than half get into one of their desired schools and even fewer get into their first choice. If one is displeased with the school they have been admitted to, they have to go through the process again in ninth grade. Although there is a second round of the high school application process, the Specialized High Schools do not participate in it.

The majority of eighth graders in BSGE took the SHSAT, and for many, this opportunity has been long awaited. Sadly, many students who did not take the SHSAT still plan on leaving the school. Instead, applying to schools such as Bard and Townsend Harris. Through this hectic process, there have been mixed reactions about the test and high school applications in general. Katherine Y. ‘22 says “I thought the SHSAT was difficult, but not to the point of being impossible. Some questions were so easy you started to doubt yourself, while others were extremely difficult. I don’t know if I made it to my first choice, but it’s okay if I don’t because I like this school.” There are many students that share this sentiment, but others seem a lot more determined to stay in BSGE. Sama N. ‘22 says “I did not take the SHSAT because I wanted to leave this school. I have always liked small schools, since everyone knows everyone, and it feels like family in a way. I am not leaving the school and I am proud to say I go to BSGE.” Others, like Alyssa P. ‘22, are bent on leaving the school, however. She says, “To say I was prepared is fair. I really wanted to go. It’s been my dream to go to Stuyvesant since I was 10.”

BSGE loses students to other high schools every year, creating a large ongoing conflict about the SHSAT and high school applications. Regardless of where they plan to go, best of luck to all the eighth graders in their high school applications!

 

Diwali: The Festival of Lights Reply

In BSGE, there are many ethnicities and many different cultures from all around the world. However, in the past week, there was a very popular Indian holiday known as Diwali or Deepavali. This is one of the biggest holidays that is celebrated throughout India. Even so, over the centuries, this holiday has also been celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists, regardless of religion. Diwali is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians.

The meaning behind Diwali holds much significance and has a metaphorical explanation behind it. The word Diwali/Deepavali has been retained from the row (avali) and clay lamps (deepa) that are placed throughout homes. For Hindus, this symbolizes the light that is forcing away the darkness. In short, it conveys that good triumphs over evil.

Correlating this to India, Diwali is celebrated with great grandeur and lots of noise. People have been accustomed for generations to using fireworks and distributing presents, as well as wearing/buying new clothes. Even in the USA, the majority of the Indian population practice such customs. However, the only difference is that the fireworks may not be used everywhere. Diwali is a fantastic sight—homes are illuminated with beautiful lights which would be an exquisite sight in the dark night.

As many BSGE students celebrate Christmas, and shortly thereafter, New Year’s, Diwali is a similar concept. In specific, Diwali serves to be a Christmas as well as a New Year. For Indians, the day after Diwali starts the New Year in the calendar. Therefore, this illustrates a connection that many can feel towards Diwali. In religious terms, during this time, different Hindu goddesses and gods are worshipped, and the main one that is worshipped is Lakshmi.

Diwali is a very enlightening holiday in the Hindu culture and creates a lively environment. This holiday has a lot of splendor and is celebrated throughout the world. The holiday is known as the “Festival of Lights”, a suiting name, as lights cover every inch of the streets. Diwali is known to be India’s biggest holiday and will continue to be so.

 

BSGE’S New Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry Teacher: Mr. Gehlaut Reply

Mr. Gehlaut, BSGE’s new edition to the math department, never intentionally set out to be a teacher. Born and raised in a small village in North India, he left his hometown for America.  After migrating to the U.S., Mr. Gehlaut used to work in Manhattan with a small newspaper called News India Times. He occasionally saw an advertisement for “New York City Teaching Fellowship” in the subway and decided to apply out of pure curiosity. After several interviews, he suggested that he teach Global History and Economics, as he had traveled to many countries. Since he had his undergraduate degree majoring in Math and Economics, the interviewer asked him to teach math. Thankfully, Gehlaut said yes.

When asked what he likes about BSGE, he said, “I like BSGE as a whole institution. Starting from the supportive school leadership and teaching staff to the most important student body, everyone has really impressed me by their motivation and aspirations… I love all my students and their learning styles.”

In his scarce free time, he loves reading newspapers—current affairs and world news—and watching Discovery and National Geographic programs. He also enjoys playing chess to relax. If he were not a math teacher, he would have been working for a newspaper as a journalist, as the topic had essentially led him to America. Mr. Gehlaut became the first person to get an undergraduate degree at the age of 20 in India. He was also named the first Hindi Journalist to win the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship to go to London and study at the University of Westminster and work with the BBC World Service. He is an inspiring addition to the BSGE staff and we wish him the best of luck for his first year at BSGE.