I wish I could have that Friday back. It would have been so different.
I would have hugged my kids a little longer. I wouldn’t have worried as much about fitting in that math lesson. I would have reassured them. I would have looked them in the eyes one more time and said, “Don’t worry. It is going to be OK. We’re all in this together.”
If only I had known.
I am one of the thousands of teachers in New York who came to school on a normal Monday in March and by the end of the week suddenly learned that she would no longer be surrounded by children every day. There would be no papers to grade, no classroom to organize, no playground to supervise, at least for a month and – ominously – maybe longer. Like all of my teacher colleagues, I am navigating this new world and dealing with unexpected emotions.
The one I can't shake is sadness.
I was distraught when I went to my empty classroom last week, not knowing when the next time would be. With limited time, I tried to quickly decide what to grab and bring home. My mind raced. How do you set priorities at a time like that?
At first, I thought about some of the student work that still needed grading. Report cards would be due next week, so I knew that would be necessary. What about my manuals, curriculum binders, conferring notes? And what about my plant, the one at the center of my guided reading table? That was going to need watering. I can’t leave that, can I?
After a few minutes of this, I could hear my colleagues, my friends, chatting in the hallway. I wanted to soak in those moments. I needed a few more minutes of interacting with the people I spend hours with every day, the people who get me through the joyful chaos of a school day.
I wanted to cry. I still do. I was losing precious moments that I wasn’t ready to lose. Of course every school year ends, but usually it builds to a finale. We have time to prepare for the goodbyes. It comes slowly, but you get through the tough moments as a class.
Not this time. This is different. Everything is different.
I teach at Maplemere Elementary School in the Sweet Home district, which must look from the outside like any other school. It's much more to me. I have been a part of Sweet Home since I was 8 years old. (Now that I think about it, it's kind of my home Sweet Home.)
The district's s mission statement is "Every Student. One Community. Ready for the Future." We try to both practice and preach those words every day, but in these past few difficult weeks, we all have placed more emphasis on the idea of “One Community.”
In a span of less than 48 hours, close to 150 members of our district volunteered to give their time to help with food preparation and delivery for families in our district. More than 1,100 children benefited from that on Friday alone.
With in-person interaction all but impossible, my principal, James Ryan, organized a dance challenge for the Sweet Home community, and more than 40 staff members and families participated. The song – “Better When I’m Dancing” by Meghan Trainor – and the idea brought needed smiles, laughter and fun to so many.
On Sunday, he brought needed inspiration. And tears.
He made a video and shared it on Twitter. Over a montage of photos of different school days, what normal used to look like, he added the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the play "Carousel." Maybe you know the lyrics, which include "When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don't be afraid of the dark."
I would like to look into my kids' faces and say those words to them, to calm them and reassure them. But I can't.
But I will see those faces again and when I do, I plan to share the message that is also the last lyrics of the same song: “Walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.”