I am missing a lot this November. I don’t just mean our normal holiday plans being curtailed because of the pandemic. I missing my November school routine. I am in a new position and school this year, as you know, and I find myself missing the routines and traditions of my previous community.
Right around now, my students and I would have been finishing our drama reading of A Christmas Carol. We would have talked about empathy, kindness, self-isolation, social duty, being a part of the world instead of closing ourselves off from it. We would have put our discussions and my admonitions into action by collecting food for local families to give them a hearty Thanksgiving meal when they might not have the means to do so for themselves, students sitting in our very period having sometimes been the recipients of that generosity. It made an impact for my teenage heroes to know that their schoolmates, classmates, a person sitting next to them could either benefit or go without as a direct result of their action or inaction. It was their chance to be Scrooge, either his old self or the new.
Then, next week, right before Thanksgiving, we would all dress up, pack our lunches, and pile on the buses to head into downtown Indianapolis to watch this story brought to magical life on the stage of Indiana Repertory Theatre. It was the official start of the holiday season for many in our school, that trip to the theatre. I got to take my students, many of whom would not have been able to afford it otherwise, to one of the most beautiful theatres in the state to view professional and young actors alike bring to life characters into whom my own students had breathed over the past few weeks as we read the play aloud.
I miss that this year. I miss tearing up as I broke down Marley’s monologue for students, his regret, his remorse, his wish he had done more but was now powerless to do anything at all. I miss hearing the sniffles scattered throughout my classroom upon Tiny Tim’s death and his family’s grief. I miss clapping my hands on my hips with my best Cockney accent and bantering with the student playing Old Joe as one of the washerwomen pawning Scrooge’s belongings after his grim future death.
I miss talking to my students about love, compassion, gratitude, generosity, starting over, doing better, having courage, and being kind.
“But you can still do that!” voices around me cry.
Ostensibly that may be true, but, right now, in the world and schedules in which we live, it feels as though there is no time. No time to stray down these paths of social-emotional encouragement, wellness, and growth. No time–regardless of what we have been told to the contrary–to set aside the academics and teach my students was is true and good and most important in the world. While intentions may be good in telling us that academics can be set aside, that sure is not the way it feels to me as a teacher. The impetus and imperative to produce grades and results feel as heavy and insistent as ever.
I am trying to tie these important values and character practices in to what we are discussing now in my new classroom, when we connect our readings back to our first quarters’ themes of Values and Justice, courage, integrity, and equity. I am trying. I promise you, I am trying.
But it’s hard. The soil of many souls feels frozen, walled off, and protected in these difficult times. We are facing more illness, more death, and even more separation as the times of coming together draw nearer and nearer. It’s hard.
I miss November.