Contributor: Jeanie Hawkins
I remember my colleagues and myself discussing how education would be affected as we listened to news reports of the spread of the virus around the world. None of us imagined what would happen in our schools.
Friday, March 13, 2020 turned out to be an unlucky day for sure. It was the last time we would have students in our rooms for almost 7 months. Teachers spent most a day packing up student's personal items from lockers and desks and putting them in bags for parents to drive through a line to pick up at the school. They were not allowed in. It was such a surreal sight to see teachers and staff standing outside with masks and gloves and radios, forming a chain to get the bags to the parents.
What came next was nothing short of a miracle. Teachers gained computer proficiency overnight and became experts on the best ways to teach remotely. It is not the best way to have school but better than kids missing huge chunks of learning. We sat in our rooms and watched a screen of kids displayed in a grid. Some students didn't have devices for weeks to join their class and some did not have internet to be able to join. I teach music and it was a challenge for sure! We could not sing together and be heard so I sang and hoped they were singing along at home. We used makeshift instruments for percussion sounds and danced to fun videos. I met many family pets who joined us online! And if one pet showed up, everyone had to go find their pet to show the class. Not a lot of music happened on those days but kids needed to be seen and wanted to make connections. We fed their souls as well as taught our curriculum.
We ended the year remotely and started the next year the same way. How excited we were when our superintendent announced we would be bringing kids back into the building in October. We started with the youngest and divided them into two cohorts. Students attended school two days and week with only half their class so we could distance them 6 feet apart. We had A days and B days with Wednesday as a day for cleaning the school and catching up on planning.We all wore masks all day except for meals and short breaks. On days that students were not in the building they had work to do at home.
I have been a teacher for 28 years and have never experienced anything like this pandemic. I asked my 87 year old parents if they remember the polio epidemic. My mother actually had polio when she was about 10. My father said he remembered movie theaters closing and public pools but he couldn't recall the total change to their lives that this pandemic has done. I hope we never do again!