We are exactly four weeks out from when I’m supposed to start back at school and five weeks until the kids’ official first day back. Assuming nothing changes. In a normal year I would be making plans, we would be checking school supply lists and back to school shopping, I’d be writing lesson plans and we would be trying to cram as much fun into the remaining few weeks. And by “fun” I mean relaxation! :)
This year is a big who knows! I’ve been reading the articles online, listening to the news, talking to my teacher colleagues, and trying to find the balance between relaxation and panic. Panic! Not even taking it account politics and racial tensions, back to school planning is overwhelming.
For my entire life as a parent, I have put the needs of my own kids first. I have done everything I could to make sure they are supported and cared for. I left a high paying job to be home with them. I got into teaching to be available after school and during the summers. I have worked very, very hard to make sure they are successful human beings. I don’t regret a single second of it, but now I wonder if my plans are backfiring. My kids did really well with remote learning. Eve is happier now that she has been in a long time! She was really struggling with middle school and since we switched to remote learning she has been so much more relaxed. She’s even wearing light gray clothes, instead of all black. :) Lex missed band class, but otherwise did really well with remote learning too. None of us are interested in wearing masks for 8 hrs a day. Lex has opted to continue remote karate and drum lessons so as not to have to wear a mask in those settings. If I didn’t have to go back to school, I’m 90% sure I’d keep them home in the fall. The other 10% is because I would actually let them have input if it was an option, but it’s not an option because I have to go back to school. I have to go back to school and be surrounded by small children who won’t be able to social distance and won’t wear masks effectively for a full school day.
We are lucky that our COVID-19 rates are very low in Vermont, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune. I have such mixed emotions about school. I understand that kids need to be in school so parents can work (that darn economy!) and that they miss seeing each other. I understand that some kids don’t have the family support at home to be successful with remote learning. I understand. I also know that school will NOT look like school as we know it. We will be wearing masks. We will be social distancing. We will have Plexiglas barriers and one-way hallways. When kids come back and want to hug their friends and teachers, we will have to say no. When they want to hold a friend’s hand. No. When they want to sit next to me for a story. No. When they are feeling sad and need a hug. No. No?
I know a lot of kids needs the structure and stability of school (and safety, unfortunately). I know a lot of families need the childcare that school provides. I also know that nothing will be the same when students walk in the door on the first day of school. Nothing can be the same. We will all do our best, but I hope it’s enough. And I hope my working with kids doesn’t bring the virus into our home.
Who knew teaching was such a high-risk job? Sheesh.