I couldn’t have imagined it would come to this.
Spring at an elementary school really is a rebirth of sorts. The learning is taking off. The routines are solid. All the things you’ve nagged about for six months are happening on their own. Line up straight. Raise your hand. Listen respectfully to others when you’re working together. Talk your way through a dispute. It’s all happening! So there’s new independence as a result.
Yes, your group may work in the hall. Yes, you may borrow the iPad to film your skit. Yes, the three of you may take the measuring tapes to other rooms in the school to help you solve your math problem. Yes, we can totally write our own class Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Yes, we can stay outside with the birds and the sun and the puddles a few more minutes longer.
I couldn’t have imagined it would come to this. An ending at the moment of rebirth. A goodbye without saying goodbye. I was allowed into my classroom for 15 minutes today. In 15 minutes, I packed up what I could carry of the 2019-2020 school year into my beloved secondhand suitcase.
That suitcase has been with me through many adventures, and on even more journeys with its previous owner. It carries the memories in its battered frame and threadbare walls. There is a bittersweetness in its role in my journey today. My old suitcase now has its own tiny part in this world-changing historical event. More memories for sure. A new beginning, new adventures in online learning. But also, an unutterable sadness for what could have been.
I packed up my binders. Math resources. A wipe-off chart. My markers and stapler and hole punch. I don’t even know if I’ll need this stuff, but I can’t shake the feeling that I can’t be a teacher if I don’t have a hole punch. I swallowed the lump in my throat as I went from desk to desk to pack up the children’s dog-eared folders. Some desks still have little stuffed animals peeking out. Headphones dangling. Her new sparkly shoes. His calculator with its buttons all colored in with a black Sharpie. The compass whose only function is to poke holes in erasers.
We likely won’t be doing those fun birthday handshakes again this year. The sugar and water experiment we started in January is sitting forlornly on the windowsill. Our latest read aloud novel will remain unread. The bookmarks in their chapter books that they were so excited to read will stay frozen on the same page. The “how-was-your-weekend” circle talk every Monday morning where we listen and share and laugh and bond is no more. We never got to say goodbye.
But. We are all safe at home. I’ll get to stay connected with my kids online. I’m grateful that this worldwide pandemic happened in 2020 where we have so much technology available to us. I love remotely making and posting funny videos with my colleagues for the sole purpose of drawing out giggles that I won’t get to hear. I’ll admit that this challenge of teaching online is intriguing and inspiring me. Together we’ll figure out a new way of learning in this unprecedented time. It isn’t the best. But it is the best we can do.
My dear students, we’ll meet again in the world someday. Stay safe, stay well, and I’ll see you online.