Yesterday was our last day of school.
Normally, on the last day of school there are very specific emotions and activities connected to the day. These emotions and activities exist because we know the next steps. Seniors will be moving on to the next phase of their lives and we will be able to watch from afar. Underclassmen will move up a grade, join new classes and we can see them in the hallways, or in my case, they can join my elective and we can stay together until graduation.
However, yesterday was different. It was our last day of school for at least 3 weeks, and possibly more. It was that uncertainty that made it feel surreal. It wasn’t school. It felt more like the last day of summer camp.
Our spring break was supposed to start on Friday, but due to the coronavirus and a response that nobody alive has ever really dealt with, our spring break starts today. We move to online classes after our spring break was supposed to end, so for now, we are only scheduled to miss 5 days of school. However, I think most of us think that this will extend further.
My plans changed multiple times over the course of the day yesterday. I had actually planned to spend some part of my day finishing a scene in Julius Caesar, but that plan shifted quickly right as first hour began. These students clearly needed to talk yesterday, so that is what we did, and that is why it felt much more like the last day of camp than the day before Spring Break.
My first hour class talked about the hoarding that is going on right now, specifically the toilet paper that is unavailable in stores. We talked about social distancing and how it could help, and we talked about worst-case scenarios (we pretty much told ghost stories all hour).
My second hour students brought cards with them. After I explained the process we would be using to facilitate distance learning over this extended absence (I tried to stop my kids from using the word “break” because it just felt weird calling this a break), we played games. They were shocked when I joined them in a game of Uno and excited when another student won right before I had a chance to throw down the winning card.
My newspaper classes worked together to build a story about the response the school was having to deal with this, and we got it posted on our website. However, that had to do more with me pushing them because really, the last few hours were spent talking about how we would still try to report during this, whether we should put out anything funny during a virus quarantine, and essentially just telling each other to keep in touch.
Each of my classes morphed into whatever that specific group of students needed on that day, and as I spoke to other teachers around the building, I heard very similar stories.
I’ve seen a lot of memes going around about parents realizing what a difficult job teachers have now that homeschooling is essentially taking place. While it is nice to see that teachers are finally getting some positive reactions on social media, it is a really stressful time for us as well. Of course, I will be pushing out work to students for however long we are out, but the work will be different than it would if we were in the classroom. I’m planning a lot of check-ins, discussions, and article reviews about how the world is changing.
My newspaper students have the chance of a lifetime to report on events that are changing the world, and I am heartbroken over the fact that we won’t see each other face to face to talk about how to approach it. But we will carry on, just like we always do.
This is hard for everyone, and we are in unchartered territory as teachers. I have seen a lot of positivity and optimism for how we can all make the best of this from my peers, and honestly, I expected nothing less. Events like this really do make you take stock of things, and for all the stress and anxiety that builds over the course of a school year, I am really glad that I get to be surrounded by so many like-minded people. I know that while each of us has to do the best we can for our specific set of kids, we will be working together, even from afar, to make the best of a terrible situation.