In mid-March, schools across the country began closing the week before our spring break. On Thursday March 12, my district closed for an extended spring break two days early. By Monday March 16, the closure was pushed to April 3rd. Teachers were told to treat our time like an extended spring break – no lessons, no assignments, no grades – and we were left waiting to hear about any distance learning options. The next week, the governor announced that schools would be closed until April 24th. After this, I knew it was very unlikely that we would return to school this year. I slowly came to grips with the fact that I wouldn’t get to see my students every day. I wouldn’t get to see my seniors walk across the stage; I wouldn’t get to see my kids dressed to the nines at prom; or spend the day with the senior class at the park for the senior picnic – the list of lost milestones is endless. We suddenly went from seeing our kids every day to not knowing when or if we were going to see them again. I felt this weight heavily as I tried to wrap my mind around what my new normal would look like in the weeks ahead. Everything surrounding school felt uncertain – would AP and end-of-course tests happen? What resources would we have to finish content and prepare our students? How will we know if students are eligible for graduation? Will next year’s standards be adjusted to allow for lost time and content? The uncertainty of how to try to move forward and the fear of the unknown was really overwhelming.
Our superintendent told faculty and staff that we would not be doing any formal distance learning. Honestly, I was relieved. I knew there was no way that we could guarantee that all of the students in our district had access to the internet and devices, and I felt wary that distance learning was something that would just perpetuate inequities. The students who are “good at school” would be fine, and the students who lack a strong social network and struggle in school would just continue to slip through the cracks. While I was spared the stress of trying to master a totally new learning platform as I have watched colleagues in other districts try to handle, the lack of structured time with my kids has been a huge struggle. I’m grateful that without specific requirements, we are able to meet kids where they are and give them activities to engage without the pressure of grades and due dates. But I also feel disconnected without any type of consistency in place.
In the midst of the uncertainty and worry and grief, I’ve felt such deep gratitude for new ways of experiencing community and connectedness. Zoom meetings with students and family and Marco Polo (a video chat app) threads have allowed me to talk to and see the many people that I miss so much. The #mtbos Twitter community has been incredible – they are supportive and sharing resources and tools for distance learning. Spending time in isolation has made me so grateful for the relationships I do have. While these virtual communities are somewhat of a facsimile for the socialization and connection that I’m used to, it still helps me to feel a part of something bigger and cared for. I know we are in this for a long time, but it won’t be forever. I hope that our experience through all of this informs a new normal – more space, connection, flexibility, and grace.
Written by Lizi Metts (@LiziMetts)