Saturday, June 5, 2021

Pondering Pandemic School As Summer Approaches & The World Opens Back Up

As I'm approaching the last remaining days of school, I'm struck in that sandwich time between end of the year craziness and summer bliss ahead. That's usually just about the right time for reflection in a normal school year. However, we all know this year was about as far away from normal as you can get. In fact, when you factor in the nuances of the Covid craziness of this pandemic, hybrid, remote, upside down teaching (where the "nuances" were far more nerve-racking than subtle), "reflecting" this year goes to new heights.

Add in, two weeks ago I actually was able to sneak away on my first trip "home"--a solo trip to the heartland to my folks' house. Being several states away, it's never a simple nor a quick trip since it involves either a long drive or a flight. In fact, in this Covid craziness, it has been since Christmas 2019 that I'd been there (or vice versa). 

Not only did I get to sneak in a little end of the year flight and multi-day getaway, but I also got to sleep in my old bed in the house I grew up in, breathing in the homeland and seeing all the old familiar sites of my childhood. In short: I got to go HOME for the first time in 17 months (almost to the day) since Christmas 2019. 2019: Back when there wasn't even a glimmer of an idea of a pandemic and how topsy turvy it would ultimately be. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like seeing my mom sitting in the waiting room inside our small regional airport while I was taxi-ing in, sitting on the plane. Window to window. Best memory ever and an even better hug in person. A hug that was17 months in waiting--long overdue--with double doses of vaccines on both sides, a multitude of masks these many months, all following nationwide quarantines & FaceTimes & Covid-school. Oh my!

My go-to saying this past year has been that hybrid teaching is like juggling knives with the simultaneous task of addressing the "roomers" and the "zoomers." While remote learning was maniacally difficult, in retrospect it was almost a piece of cake in comparison to hybrid learning. Back in March last year, none of us would have believed that it was possible for something to be harder than remote teaching! 

Teaching at an independent school, we were able to start the 2020-21 school year in a hybrid setting due to our ability to spread everyone out. We were hybrid for about 6 and a half months where kids came essentially every other day (except for those who opted to be full-time remote students). Right about the time our area public schools ventured into the hybrid world in March of this year, we transitioned back into full-time, in-school teaching--with plexiglass, masks, air scrubbers, distancing, outdoor lunches, and more. Over time, the full-time remote students started trickling back in. We're ending the school year this next week with almost our entire population fully back in session. 

Along those many months, we re-crafted the art of teaching first for fully remote then for hybrid. Our elementary students have far exceeded previous years in their technology skills and abilities. We've all honed our problem solving abilities, patience, senses of flexibility (and hopefully humor), and creativity. It's been a long, long road to get here. Many of us teachers are TIRED!

The vaccine roll out has been a gift of science the last five months, and our nation as a whole is starting to open up. Elementary students are still waiting their turn, but with the vaccines now being able to be administered to anyone 12 years old and up, "normalcy" (both in schools and beyond) is starting to return. For many of us who have been "Covid cautious" throughout, there's a little bit of PTSD that comes with that. For one, it's hard to get past the staggering numbers of deaths our nation and our world have faced due to this silent virus. Secondarily, the initial fear of the unknown really packed a powerful punch. I remember the "old days" in the early part of the pandemic where we wiped down our mail & delivered groceries and hoped we didn't run out of Clorox wipes. Man, does that feel like eons ago!

As we have moved through the various stages of the pandemic [which included a contentious election as well as a lot of televised racial injustice for which we were a captive audience], we have finally made it through to what's feeling like "the other side." The world is opening back up. Slowly for some (& perhaps with PTSD) and exuberantly for others. I see it strikingly and with raw emotion as I take note of the proms and graduations that are happening this year in ways that were impossible last year. I witnessed it first hand at the crowded airport from my trip two weeks ago. Not only was it weird because it was the first time I'd flown in at least 2 years, but let me tell you: there were a lot of people! Too many people for this kid! That person seated next to me on the plane was not 3 feet away! It was definitely a strange dichotomy given I've become a pro at reminding students at school to stay distanced and monitoring myself & my family to steer clear of crowded settings. 

The more life opens up, the more I'm slowly becoming accustomed to letting go of all the rules and protocols that we've been governed by for the last 15 months. It's hard to let go of though, especially since  I've been teaching in masks, eating lunch in a room by myself behind a closed door, and virtually bathing in hand soap and sanitizer at school. It's taking a little bit to settle into the vaccinated safety and take comfort in the reduction in the number of cases and to trust that things are getting better.

So with summer nearly upon us, I'm eager to retire my mask and bask in my backyard for a bit. To breathe in the fresh air, To settle in my summer happy place of the pool. To go on an adventure or two. To catch up on sleep, read books, watch some shows, and just work on anything but "work." That is of course one of the all-time beauties of being a teacher. This year, more than ever before!

Photos either from my camera or created at

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