What’s Next

It is understandable and even logical to look at history to try to make sense of the present and to want to avoid past mistakes.  While I have come to hate the  overused word, unprecedented, there is very little guidance from previous times about  what to do next.  The 1918 flu epidemic is the logical choice to look to, in addition to a deadly virus, there was a world war and horrific events in the name of anti-Semitism and racism.  While there are books and records about the events themselves, there is very little about how schools dealt with it.  There have been multiple times in history where schools closed due to a pandemic or epidemic but nothing about how students recovered from those events.  

So, we have to move forward on our own.  The best way to do that is to ask the students what they need and to use our deep listening skills as we return to buildings this fall.  We can predict that there will be gaps in math and reading instruction but we have to listen for what other needs there will be.  Many of our students have lost family members without an opportunity  to be with them as they died or to grieve in a traditional ceremony.  Many students have had family members lose jobs forcing our students to become adults in the last year.  How will they transition back to a classroom where they have to ask permission to speak or go to the bathroom?  The anxiety over potentially losing someone to this illness, to not be able to be with those you cared about, possibly not having enough food to eat, or losing your home has taken a toll on many of our students. They have been forced to grow up quickly. The trauma our students have endured will spill over into our classrooms.  What will our students need to recover?  Together, we can find the answers. We will marshal our resources and give our children what they need to recover.

Finally, how much of our pre-COVID life do we want back?  Were there good things that came out of this experience that we want to preserve?  Many have written about enjoying more down time with family, playing games, reading and pursuing simple pleasures. All of our lives have slowed down.  There is more time for family and ourselves.  Do we want our kids to go back to their packed schedules or is there some value in keeping part of the pandemic lifestyle?   One thing to note is that bullying is way down with our remote classrooms.  Do we just accept bullying as part of in-person education or do we stop to ask how we can eliminate it? We need to make sure that each and every student feels safe in the classroom.

Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.

William Wordsworth
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