I currently reside in the Northeast region of the United States. Here, Autumn makes itself known pretty dramatically. The leaves on the trees slowly begin to give up life and turn color. It’s odd because when you think of something actually ceasing to exist for much longer, you cannot imagine it is going to do so by making such a tremendous spectacle at the end. In addition to the leaves, the air is noticeably crisper, and a faint glimpse of holiday things-to-come begin to peek out from behind the storage closet door. I love this time of year for simple things. But I hesitate now, for the uncertainty of it all as we embark towards the more unchartered territory. It is inescapable.
At the time of this writing, we are heading into Labor Day Weekend here in the States. It is a time where the end of summer is figuratively marked on a calendar by some crude notation in pencil scribble. It is the annual changing of the seasonal guard if you will. One thing is for certain, however, come Monday… the summer is over. Transition is in the air, in more ways than one, I guess. Particularly when it relates to going back to school.
While COVID continues to disrupt the norm in every single way, it’s mere presence in today’s world acts as a stark and constant reminder for change as well. Things are not going to be predictable during this fall season with any familiar normalcy or routine. We have adapted for almost 6 months, and hopefully, we will continue to do for as long as it takes for the eventual defeat of this scourge. But not without taking a toll on many people, l I fear. In this case, the children.
I present on the stage when facing adversity, you have two choices. The first, to curl up into a ball and remain in the fetal position on the floor – broken and wrecked. The second is to brush off the remaining dust of complacency and bravely march forward toward the new horizon of challenge. When it comes to adversity, it is the way of things. On the surface, this all sounds noble and makes for a great talking point to an audience. In reality, I am concerned many people are getting tired of triumphantly marching along after having already done so for half a year now. Perhaps the once cold floors of surrender, are beginning to feel warmer for some. I just don’t know, but I sense it to be truer each day.
Next week, half of the learning community will be forced to remain home, keeping eyes fixed on a rectangular screen. One now substituting as a fill-in for human interaction. There will be no lunch conversations, no recess, no social contact, no field trips, no special events, and no escape for some poor children to leave an unhappy home for a few precious hours a day. An effort to regain some composure and build up their self-esteem which may have been stolen from them the evening prior. In this new educational world, there is only untested uncertainty with the risk of significant fall-out.
A new school year, where there will be no snow-days. When you have a tablet in hand, learning doesn’t remain bound by a clock or give a shit about the weather outside. It’s a whole new unknown and unsettled world. We have never done this before. If half of the students succeed here in this environment and adapt accordingly, I have to wonder what the plan is to support the other half who cannot emotionally do so. What are the short- and long-term implications for home learning such as this? How about all of those young children, middle, and high school students who have given it their all for half a year now, but still fall short due to the smothering weight of this forced and unwelcome transition? Has anyone fully thought through this?
The other half of this new learning environment will be conducted in a modified form. Classrooms shall be smaller, masks will be worn all day, students, teachers, and staff will all be on edge for 8 hours wondering, fearing, and cautioning. Here, it will be just as important to make sure you wash your hands, don’t touch your face, remember to cough into your elbow, and remain at least 6 six away from the next person in line for a quick refresh at the water fountain, as it is to remember the periodic table or calculus. Unfortunately now, forgetting some of these details could cost a life or two or three.
Boy am I thankful those days are behind me. But what about those kids who already suffer from emotional fragility anyway. I can only imagine how frightful this new educational experience must be for them. I don’t know what the answer is, I write about it and I worry about it. I have two boys entering into this brave new world next week. Truth be told, I am absolutely petrified.
If I had a magic wand, I would cast it towards the sky and make it all better for everyone. Fate has already ripped it from my tightly gripped hands, never to be a reality anyway. For now, I only shake my head in disbelief on how we got here. Will the school bell this year ring, or should it fatefully toll?
This global pandemic stuff is one adversity I never saw coming, nor did any of us for that matter. But we all own it now. Like it or not. Welcome Autumn.
For the love of God, kids please keep off the floor. Move along in a single file.