Today, teachers who needed to were allowed back into our building–one at a time, of course–to pick up anything we might need for the remainder of the school year and/or summer, just in case. My time slot was 11:30, with another teacher due to arrive at 11:45. I did not take my phone with me, as I wanted to make sure that I was in and out quick-sticks as instructed. But, Dear Ones, it was WEIRD!
Weird to walk into that building that I am so used to being bustling with life. Weird to see the empty halls, the quiet classrooms. Weird to see the lockers that had been covered with hearts and post-it notes so far this semester, expressions of love and encouragement from student to student, now stripped clean out of an abundance of caution. Of the four that were once there, one lone post-it note remained on my classroom door. One that admonished: “Make yourself a priority.” (I tell you, the student who wrote it could not have known that they wrote it for just such a time as this. But that is a whole other blog post.)
It was eerie, empty, and all I could feel was a sense of…desertion. We had deserted these halls, deserted this routine, deserted this normal, and it felt utterly weird. And sad, too, in a way. For roughly 13 years of their lives, students get up and go to school for 7-8 hours a day at least, 180 days out of the school year. For the school to be deserted on the first day of April just felt…wrong. I know many of my students feel that wrongness and, yes, maybe even desertion right now. I think that is where we all are at the moment: feeling that wrongness, that disruption, and, yes, in some sense, that feeling of desertion, of either deserting or being deserted by our lives. We are in the midst of something huge right now, Dear Ones, something without defined borders or dimensions. We have been deserted by all certainty except the most dire in this time, and that is unspeakably hard.
As I bustled about my classroom, gathering what I needed, I spied projects that my students had done that had not been picked up before we had closed, and I smiled. I smiled at their imagination and hard work. These were projects that I had comandeered the downstairs display case to show off during fall semester, as they were done during first quarter. I was and still am supremely proud of those students and their creativity and ingenuity.
That feeling of desertion may be hanging heavy, but there are still smiles to be had. There are still opportunities for ingenuity and creativity. Things have changed, yes; been upheaved, yes; been turned right on their ear, yes. But we have not been deserted. I can assure you of that, Dear Ones. You have not been deserted and nor have you deserted anyone.
I know you. I know that you are being massively kind and caring, shouldering not only your burdens but also those of your partners, children, family, friends, and neighbors. You have taken their cares and well-being onto your minds and souls.
You have put bears in your windows for children to find.
You have strewn your porches with balloons and filled your windowpanes with encouraging messages.
You have sent out hope in emails, Facebook messages, Instagram DMs, and messages of handwritten love.
You have not been deserted and nor have you deserted anyone. We are all still right here. Separate but still together.
When I came home from my trip to the school building, I got on our digital learning platform and started grading assignments that have been turned in. And I smiled again. I got to read wonderful, insightful posts by students about oral tradition and how it translates into our digital age. I got to see others’ creativity in translating and interpreting proverbs from Poor Richard’s Almanac.
We will all have stories to tell when this is over and it makes me smile to teach my students just where their stories fit in to the larger one of life.
You have not been deserted and nor have you deserted anyone, Dear Ones. There are still smiles to give and receive, love to be found in the every day, hope that will crop up in the quiet moments. Peace is still there to be found in what cannot be stopped by crisis or circumstance: sunrises and sunsets, the quiet of early morning and the settling of life in the evening, and the eventual changing of the seasons (did anyone else totally miss that the grass has become green again?).
We have not been deserted. There are still smiles, love, compassion, peace, and hope to be found in the midst of all this, and we can still find each other.