This year has not been easy. We’ve experienced lockdowns, school shutdowns, way too much Zoom time, and canceled flights. Many of us have missed out on celebrations and time with family; we’ve worried about the health of our loved ones.

To put it lightly: we are ready to say goodbye to 2020. But before we do, we want to take some time to look back on some of our achievements.

January: AISB’s First DP Wellness Week, Created by CAS Journalism Students

For one glorious week, the random upstairs room above the math classrooms got turned into a cozy sanctuary for DP students. As Jade M’s final project for CAS Journalism, she decided a “quiet room,” complete with bean bags, yoga mats, blankets, puzzles, and snacks would be a welcomed retreat for stressed-out juniors and seniors.

In addition to the quiet room, we published a week of mental health-related content, specifically dedicated to DP stress-related issues.

Here’s our video, created by recent graduate Paula P, explaining the initiative:

February: The Bite Exposes Xenophobic Bullying Related to the Coronavirus

Remember when people had no idea how serious COVID-19 was? In fact, saying someone had coronavirus quickly became a “funny” insult among AISB students—that is, until it was no longer funny.

Now 11th graders, Chi Z. and Kristina M. tackled the sensitive issue of bullying, interviewing a large sample of Asian students to understand why they were being targeted.

Many teachers have confirmed hearing ill-intentioned ‘jokes’ urging students to stay away from Chinese students, and one high school student (who wishes to remain anonymous) reported an incident where a peer advised everyone to sit away from her because ‘The Chinese all have the Wuhan virus.’

-An excerpt from the article, “I am not a Virus: Asian Students Face Xenophobic Bullying & Harassment.

The article was brought up in advisory sessions and highlighted in the secondary assembly. It was also shared widely among international schools.

March: The School Closes Down and Everything Goes Digital, Including our Morning Broadcasts

It’s honestly weird putting this list together. We’ve been doing some form of distance/online learning for NINE MONTHS!

Anyway, starting in March, we swapped the green screens and shotgun microphones for bedroom backgrounds and Zoom audio. And while it wasn’t perfect, it was amazing to see our broadcasters Meea S. and Emma C. come together and deliver the news despite the strange restrictions.

Here’s the first one. (And if you’ve been following, these ‘Quarantine Bites’ videos continue to get better and better!)

April: Service Learning Groups use The Bite as a way to Continue Important Initiatives

Before the school closed at the end of March, several student-led groups had already planned on-campus initiatives, like Amnesty International’s Human Rights Week, the Wellness Council’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and even the Eco Council’s Earth Week.

It was truly inspirational to see how motivated these groups were, and how successful these ‘weeks’ turned out online. From the Zoom webinars, to student-created podcasts, AISB students truly paved the way for what you can do while distance learning.

May: Seniors Experience a Bitter-Sweet Graduation, Virtually

May 29th was supposed to be the day they all looked forward to for so long: the day they donned their black robes, walked across the stage, and threw their hats high into the sky—celebrating the end to their long careers as high school students.

Unfortunately, things looked a little different. And while the school did everything they could to deliver a successful virtual graduation, it was still a really difficult time for seniors. Bella M. articulated these feelings in her article, “What it’s like Graduating during a Global Pandemic.”

Related article, “Class of 2020: Where are they now?” Image created by Eliza O.

June: AISB Senior Toyosi A. Writes the Year’s Most Important, Most-Read Article

At a time when seniors were mourning the loss of prom, an in-person graduation, and their senior trip, long-time writer and editor for The Bite, Toyosi Ariyo, crafted a beautiful story in response to worldwide protests.

Black Lives Matter: An Open Letter to the AISB Community” was widely shared throughout the international school system and used as a teaching tool across many institutions. Toyosi was contacted by several student social justice groups and principals, applauding her courage and asking her permission to use her words to enact change.

In all honesty, I didn’t plan on writing the article like an open letter. The initial idea was to have an informative resource on BLM for the school, but something changed when I sat in front of that empty document. I got really emotional…That article was a place for me to vent, and say all the things I wanted to say, all the things that needed to be heard. It was scary. I didn’t know how it would be received. But pain thrust me into activism, and I soon found that those words were better on a page than locked away in my mind, unseen and unheard.

Toyosi says it was an honor to have so many people read (and be touched by) her words, and that she never expected it. “To know that your words matter to someone—your thoughts, opinions, your innermost feelings—I still can’t believe it.”

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

July, August & September: We All Take a Much-Needed Break

While we were still posting the occasional article, summer was a time to relax and try our best to navigate travel restrictions and growing COVID-19 case numbers. In September, we got a whole new batch of writers, editors, graphic designers, podcasters, and broadcasters. Exciting things were happening, but they remained largely behind the scenes.

October: The Bite gets a Serious Makeover

After a lot of research and testing, this year’s web design team decided it was time to overhaul our website, and implemented a new WordPress theme. Their goal was to create a space that was truly student-centered—that looked and felt like a fun social media platform where students would enjoy visiting after school was over.

We know we’re biased, but we think they nailed it.

Here’s the newsletter our graphic designers created to celebrate the launch of the new look:

November: We get our First ‘Reality Bites’ Podcast of the 2020-21 School Year

It took a while for our new podcast team Alex L. and Sikander K. to get their microphones and to figure out the best software to use while interviewing via Zoom, but they did it. Their first episode is an interview with AISB English Teacher Ian Edwards, where he discusses what it’s like to teach in the time of the coronavirus.

When teachers don’t feel like they’re succeeding, they tend to internalize it. A lot of teachers, myself included, are internalizing what we see as failures on our part…

-A quote from Edwards on the podcast episode.

December: We Celebrate what we can, and Look Ahead to 2021

Well, it has been a year. And while we’re all completely sick of learning over Zoom, we must remain grateful for the opportunities we have. Just this month, AISB’s drama department was able to premier their winter production on YouTube. The Making A Difference (MAD) service learning group delivered hundreds of bags filled with food to the village of Berceni for their ‘Stuff the Bus’ initiative. And despite having to complete their DP course work online, a group of juniors and seniors created the school’s first sexual harassment policy.

Pretty amazing.

And with a vaccine in sight, we have to believe that things will get better soon. That we will return to campus this spring. That The Bite staff will be together again, in my classroom, working in teams, with proper equipment, coffees in-hand.

Happy New Year to all our readers! Cheers to 2021!