New York Magazine

She Let Them Pick Paper Topics—Half Chose COVID-19

THE FIRST week she taught online, Samantha Elkaim planned a lesson on misinformation: Her students collected coronavirus material from social media and analyzed its trustworthiness and accuracy. The second week, they started research papers. “If the thing you’re most curious about right now is coronavirus, write about it,” she told the class. “If you’re really curious about baseball right now because it’s the thing that’s keeping you from going crazy about coronavirus, write about baseball.” She wound up with roughly a 50-50 split between topics coronavirusrelated and not. (One student wanted to write about whether people were going to love technology or hate it when this was all over.) Before the pandemic, Elkaim had been hoping to get to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, but she’s not sure it will happen now.

Elkaim has big glasses and a big smile and could still pass for the college student she was not too long ago. She teaches 11th- and 12th-grade English at a public high school in lower Manhattan, and throughout her childhood—attending public schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island—she was a kid who loved school,

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