Day #46: Friday, May 1, 2020

May 2, 2020

Infinite parallel universes. They are all I can think about lately.

We are all on a different timeline these days. And, at least for the first few months of this strange time in our world’s history, we all know what we were supposed to be doing. The list is infinite and covers the seemingly infinite number of activities we all used to occupy our time with: missed family vacations, missed sporting events, missed visits with far flung family members, missed dental appointments, missed concerts, missed comic book releases, and so on and so on.

For our frontline responders and essential workers, this timeline is likely a jumble of missed time with husbands, wives, children, parents, family and friends. The heroic acts, both large and small, these folks are taking on each and every day for the rest of us cannot be praised enough. To all of those who are working to keep us healthy, to those who keep us safe, and to those who keep us supplied, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to publicly thank you for your bravery during this time. Thank you!

As a teacher, my mind constantly turns back towards my students. At Riverside Brookfield High School, I am the luckiest person in the world because I get the chance to work with my freshmen English students and my Clarion newspaper students each and every day. I am pained by all of the opportunities and missed moments for all of my students.

My daily routine these days is a far cry from my pre-pandemic existence as a teacher. After about a week of pushing for it, I was able to convince my wife to allow me to set up a folding table at the base of the stairs in our basement. Instead of my own classroom, these days I teach snuggled firmy between a cat scratching post and an American Girl Doll sweet treats food truck.

In this timeline I teach through my screen, which mostly means I track my students’ progress throughout the week. Instead of face-to-face interactions, I send a lot of emails and occasionally see my kids’ faces through Zoom. Let’s be honest: it’s not the same. We clearly took the socialization component of public schooling for granted before the coronavirus hit. I can see it in my students’ faces and hear it in their voices during our Zoom calls. My freshmen to my seniors share openly that they miss seeing their friends and their classmates. In one of my recent English Zoom calls, a freshman even said she missed seeing the people she never really talked to. This whole experience is likely harder on kids than we realize, and as teachers, part of our job is to help them cope as they navigate this new world.

At least once a week (if not more), I am fortunate to get to meet online with my Clarion newspaper kids, and it is both a comfort and a joy to see them, listen to them, and watch them continue to do their jobs. This timeline has us all in different physical locations, but they carry on with their work the same. I am so proud of them.

Finally, while I am concerned for all of my students and their well-being during this time, I am especially thinking of my senior Clarion kids, many of whom I have taught for most of their time at RBHS. I can miss a social interaction or two and be fine. But for my seniors, their timelines have shifted so dramatically… cancelled proms, uncertain plans for graduation ceremonies, shifted expectations for what “going to college” might mean or entail, and so on.

To Mia, Dan, Rahim, Seymone, Shalah, Madi, Casey, Taylor, Sarah, Kenna, Modear, Greg, and Diego: our staff and our school is lucky to have you. Though the end of your time as a student at RBHS does not look how you envisioned it does not mean that the time you have spent with us has been diminished in any way. I hope when you think back on this time you do not look back with regret but with fondness for the times when you were together. You all showed one another kindness and gave one another strength during the entirety of your time as Bulldogs, and especially as members of the Clarion. Do not think of the events you missed. Instead remember the times that you were present: Food Fridays, staff meetings, late night hard copy insanity, article brainstorming sessions that got way deeper than we initially intended, fake press conferences, and the other 1,000,000 small moments in between.

This timeline is different for all of us, and sure, we are all a little different as a result of it, but I hope that when this is all over we start to work towards building a world that has empathy and kindness and compassion and hope as its foundations.

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