We are all anxious. School looks very different right now. Some of you had a really difficult time deciding whether or not to send your kids back into brick and mortar schools, to homeschool, or complete coursework entirely online. Some of you, because of work, didn’t really have a choice at all.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree on this: Schools weren’t built to be perfectly sterile and the buildings aren’t ideal for social distancing. School buildings are supposed to be littered with high fives and crowded hallways. Even the very first one-room school houses were meant to be cozy gatherings of eager learners.
The truth is that things look different now. But they aren’t all sad and pitiful like the media wants you to believe. If you believe the lie circulating that public schools are turning into a somber, stone cold atmosphere, you’d be completely wrong.
I’m a teacher in the public schools, and I wish you could see what I see. The kids are wearing masks. The adults are wearing masks. There is no hugging, no high fives, and no sharing. This might sound sad when you first read it, but again, I wish you could see what I see. I can’t see their smile, but I can see their eyes light up as they wave at me in the hallway. I know they have all been craving social interaction of any kind after being isolated for months. These kids are happy. So happy. They are happy to be at school, they are happy to distance themselves if it means keeping others safe, and they are learning a lot about boundaries this year.
If you are like me and prefer to see the silver lining amidst unnerving changes, here are some good things that are happening in public schools right now:
Children are hyper-aware of their surroundings. This is a great thing for many reasons. Too often, children tend to touch things without thinking. What are you touching? Who is around you? How close is the nearest exit? On that note, there’s also a heavy focus on boundaries and personal space. This is something children are often lacking, especially if they aren’t taught this at home.
The school is cleaner than it’s ever been and there’s a newfound focus and appreciation for personal hygiene. Teachers are being provided with cleaning supplies and custodians are working their tails off (can we get some appreciation for these amazing folks?!).
People are coming together — well, figuratively. I have been assigned to manage virtual school this year, but I am still in the building during school hours. Teachers, as if they weren’t already doing it before the pandemic, are going above and beyond to make school a happy and safe place. Parents are donating extra supplies to help families financially affected by the shutdowns. The administration is answering emails all hours of the night.