Updated: Mar 26, 2022
It still feels surreal to reflect back on the worldwide pandemic that took me, my class of fifth graders, and the world by storm in March 2020. The month had started out so promisingly! My sister brought freshly-cut flowers to my classroom to celebrate my birthday. I love
flowers; they are an extravagance I don't often indulge in for myself. My desk was filled with handmade cards from students. My heart was filled with gratitude. A few days prior, I learned that I had won a prestigious teaching award. I was so honored and humbled, because I work alongside amazing teachers every day, and I just couldn't believe I had been selected. It was the best I had felt in a good long while.
A couple days later, we were advised by our school district that we would be teaching from home for a few days while the Corona virus calmed down. Looking back, I realize how naive we were, and that we had no idea the long-lasting effects this fast-moving virus would have on our lives and especially for me, in my role as a teacher in the lives of students whom I loved. We had just days to transition from being in-person classroom teachers with beautiful classrooms and materials available at our fingertips to the solitary confinement of our homes and mostly, our computers. We Googled what was meant by Microsoft Teams, having never heard of it before, and figured out over the weekend how to set up classes, deliver instructional content, and most daunting, teach all of our regular classes from home, to students who also had never used Teams. As teachers, we set up classrooms and did practice sessions with our fellow teachers. With Facetime on our phones as an aid, we asked our teacher colleagues the urgent questions of the day: Can you hear me? Can you see me? Can you see the document I just posted to the Chat? Can you open the document I posted to the Files tab? It was like learning a foreign language in a weekend.
A couple years hence, I look at the plaque. I have left it unchanged from the day I wrote it in 2020. I don't think I will ever erase it. I will keep this frozen moment in time. We were studying Tuck Everlasting (a must-read as part of our Fantasy unit) by Natalie Babbitt when disaster stuck, and we continued to read-aloud the book together as a class
in the weeks that turned into months, and then the end of a school year without the closure of reunification with our class. I didn't apologize to my class when I cried as I read the final chapter of the book, and a good many students cried right along with me. We had shared in something so impactful.
"No connection, you would agree. But things can come together in strange ways. The wood was at the center, the hub of the wheel. All wheels must have a hub. A Ferris Wheel has one, as the sun is the hub of the wheeling calendar. Fixed points they are, and best left undisturbed, for without them, nothing holds together. But sometimes, people find this out too late."
Many quotes from the text became metaphors for life. You really can't believe the depth of these 10- and 11-year old kids. So wise, so perceptive, and open. JD suggested that maybe we had to become our own hubs, because we had lost the anchor of our beloved school building; that even in the midst of tragedy, we might find a new way. Charlie professed that he had never felt closer to a group of friends, even though we were miles away from each other, and only saw each other's images in Teams meetings. Sophie said maybe we could become hubs for each other, too, if individually we were too weak to withstand the pain of our shared separation. These conversations bled well outside of our slated classroom time, and we often found our 32-person class meeting in the Chat at the end of the day, unprompted, just to check in on each other. How did your day go? Did you figure out how to attach your homework to the Assignment tab? If you make me a presenter in Teams, I can share my screen and show you how to do it. This was my students, not me, doing the talking here!
So the next year, I do what I do. I re-read their quotes, written in the margins of my day planner. I really love inspiring quotes. I print them out and put them in my classroom. I look for picturebooks that help explain our experience,
and I found a few great ones, that I shared with the next class. These are beautiful books, and I recommend them to parents and teachers alike. But the real story, the story of my class that year, in the Spring of 2020, hasn't been told until today. I love these kids more than words (and I really, really love words), and may just write a book about our adventure.