Y’all. I’m a nervous wreck about the start of school this year. So many crazy unknowns. Will we report back on a full, traditional schedule? Will we be on some form of a hybrid? Will we be all online, at least in the beginning?
Unfortunately, none of these makes me comfortable.
Ideally, we would all be back in the classrooms with our students, reading, writing, sharing stories in person and on paper, laughing, singing the occasional impromptu television theme song, and building relationships that last and impact us for the rest of our lives.
That’s what we’ve always done and it’s what I love most in the world about my job. Getting to know and love my kids and appreciate how much potential they have and how much of it they’re actually using. I then get to push them based upon what I know about their skills level, personality, and propensities.
But this year, if we are all in the same classroom, it’ll be with masks. On me, at least. We don’t yet know if our system will require them. If masks are not mandatory, I will ask my students to respect my desire for them to wear one. And pray they don’t push back. So many people are opposed to them for reasons beyond me, and I know if I stand alone in asking my students to wear them, there WILL be backlash. But they DO truly help prevent the spread of disease — from the mask wearer to others. So me wearing a mask without my students wearing a mask is futile and far from ideal.
Also not ideal is the fact that my voice will be muffled and my smile invisible. Smiling’s my favorite. I do it all the time. I’ve never been one of those “Never let ’em see you smile till Christmas” kind of teachers. Nope. I love my kiddos and they’ll know it from the get-go. So no, masks are not ideal.
Neither is a hybrid schedule. But on a traditional schedule like we run at our school, high schoolers travel all over the campus seven to eight times a day. Without hybrid accommodations, the contamination curve is increased exponentially. A hybrid would reduce the number of students in classrooms on any given day and will hopefully help prevent the spread of the virus. So hybrid helps immensely and is probably the best scenario possible in the less-than-ideal, “between a rock and a hard place” position we all find ourselves in this school year.
But for a mom of six-year-old twins, if the primary school also goes hybrid, I have no clue what I’ll do for childcare. They’ll be home part time; I’ll be at work full time. I’m at a loss. (And I know I’m preaching to the choir on this one, as so many parents will find themselves in this situation. I wish I could blink and make everything normal again…)
And then finally, there’s the third potential solution: digital learning days to start the school year (and for the foreseeable future). This is my least favorite possibility. In March, it wasn’t too bad because I already knew my students and they knew me. They understood my expectations, I understood what they were capable of. I could push them from inside the strict confines of a screen and they produced — often with flying colors.
But if we begin the year digitally with no in-person interactions, my opportunities to get to know my students and what makes them tick are seriously hampered, and my abilities to demand their best are deeply handicapped. And their motivation — as high schoolers — heck as all humans without personal interaction and contact, honestly– is deeply lessened. Relationships with those around me keeps me motivated and accountable. As it does for my students.
Yes, I’m a nervous wreck. I have no control over this virus or the decisions being made to circumvent it.
I will learn tomorrow what our system will do. And I know our superintendent and school board members and leadership teams have done all within their powers to turn a potential no-win situation into a productive and successful school year. So I will have faith.
And I will do my part to make it work. And so will everyone else at our school — teachers, students, administrators, support staff — no matter what our schedule looks like. We are strong and capable and we can do hard things.
We will make it work — and beyond that, we will succeed.
Still, that doesn’t calm the crazed, kamikaze butterflies dive-bombing my gut right now. I’m just so ready to KNOW, and I’m so ready to GO!