“Mom, I’m going to prom!” exclaims a bright-eyed Sixie, checking his Nobles email. “Mr. Denning just told us—we’re going to have a virtual prom, and it’s open to all grades!” Shock? Elation? Dismay? Trusting students felt all the feelings until they clicked through on the link in Head of the Upper School Michael Denning’s missive, which led to the annually anticipated April Fool’s issue of the Nobleman. The tradition of launching a new issue of the student-run paper with a prank announcement not only provided homebound students with a much-needed laugh, but more importantly, the reassurance that the current health crisis would not quash the Nobles’ community’s humor or intrepid spirit.
The letter outlined multiple advantages of Prom’s proposed format using Zoom, the video-conferencing platform Nobles uses for virtual learning:
- A pseudo-photobooth created using the greenscreen background feature (i.e. space, the Golden Gate, grass);
- Recording the event to offer students a video memento of their 2020 Prom;
- Giving participants the opportunity to connect with classmates in either “speaker view” to mimic a dance circle, or “audience view” to see everyone;
- The ability for teacher chaperones to supervise all students and join the fun;
- No space constraints, so everyone in the school can come—even middle schoolers;
- Mr. Bussey as a DJ, streaming his playlist filled with throwbacks and top hits, with his chat open for requests.
On the ever-important question of prom fashion: “We ask that you wear whatever you have. If you don’t have the proper attire, you can wear anything you are comfortable in. Please note that we will be taking screenshots throughout the night instead of pre-Prom pictures.”
While most of the email was tongue-in-cheek, the acknowledgement that students are feeling a real loss of experiences marking their accomplishments and celebrating their relationships was completely sincere: “I want to again emphasize that we care for each of you, and that the faculty has been hard at work this week brainstorming different ways to retain as many of our special, end-of-year experiences as possible. On a different note, please understand that it is perfectly acceptable to be disappointed about lost or changed experiences, while also appreciative of important distancing measures—do not punish yourself for these natural emotions,” Denning said. This is a message that faculty and staff have conveyed to students since program cancellations began in late February.
Head of School Cathy Hall herself admitted falling for the email—and expressed to faculty and staff that it was a timely reminder that under these trying circumstances, it is more important than ever not to take ourselves too seriously, to collectively find the humor in things, and to support each other.
Illustration by Sammy Walkey ’20