After taking a 3-month break from blogging, it feels good to be back. Besides the opportunity to share thoughts and pose questions to whomever is reading this, I’m selfishly using it as an opportunity to communicate. Please know that I continue to enjoy rich communication with my husband (walking saint that he is), but since 13 March, my life has drastically changed. What a difference the past few weeks have made.
We knew it was coming…
Our school community remained acutely aware of COVID-19 and how it could/would impact us as a community of teachers and learners. Fortunately for us, our administration was very proactive in preparing any of us who were not used to working in an online setting. Of course, depending upon our course load this could either be a no-brainer or really tax our creative juices. It hasn’t mattered what our classrooms or teaching environments looked like in our building. As of 13 March we all stepped through the looking glass. We weren’t alone. Our students…this group of energetic adolescent humans who had grown up learning tech-speak as another mother tongue were being thrown into the deep end of the educational pool.
I did my best to practice due diligence while preparing my students for what the new “normal” for Choir would look/sound like. Suffice it to say that none of us were happy with what was on the horizon. For 2 weeks leading up to our last day together, I took about 5 minutes to compare and contrast what we were doing with what I would call upon them to do in the event of a school closure. Each day, we would come together and I’d get the same comments…”Well, we’re back. This is dumb…it is a stupid hoax. Nothing will close school.” Despite their attempts at bravado, my students’ eyes and faces carried a different message. They knew it was coming. We all knew it was coming, We just didn’t “see” it coming.
It just so happens that our select choir came together for a pick-up rehearsal on 12 March. We were all still working towards the Spring concert scheduled for May. I doggedly refused to let go of hope that we would come through this one the other side in time to perform what we had been working so hard to perform. Our select group is an eclectic gathering of students from the high school and one 8th grader. If you were to cut a cross-section of our school enrollment, these are the students you’d find within it. Athletes…kids at the top of their classes…others whose learning styles are “different”…several international students…the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy. There is a big part of my soul that looks at them and listens to their voices blend and just breathes it all in. This is what our world should resemble. This is the coming together to join energies, talents, spirits, and wills that I dream of. In honesty, this is why I do what I do.
We wrapped up one more run-through of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with laughter and mutual affirmation. As I packed up my teaching area (God forbid it should be left messy for the next person to use it…what a joke), two of my seniors held back to talk. The senior girl asked me if I thought we’d be closed soon. There really wasn’t any way I could be less than honest with her. I told her that I wasn’t sure when it would happen but it wouldn’t surprise me if we got the word that it was happening. The senior boy asked if I had ever seen anything like this. Again…the call to honesty. “No. Not in 30 years of teaching.” We said “Goodbye. See you Monday.” Hugs were exchanged. We had no school the next day for a scheduled day off.
We didn’t necessarily “see” it coming…
That was the last time I was in the physical presence of my students. On Friday, 13 March we received the robocall…CLOSED as of Monday, 16 March.
I began delivering and receiving class content via Google Classroom. I’d like to say that it has been a breeze but I’d be lying. The technological aspects of it are easy enough to navigate but, in the case of my Choir, it is the absence of physical interactions between teacher and students that is hitting us the hardest. Some of my students have just dug in their heels quite firmly to the point that I feel compelled to just drag them over the finish line. Other students have embraced the challenge of making music with me via video. After all, they use Tik Tok pretty well, don’t they?
Here’s what’s been missing…
We are unable to use our Emotional Intelligences in response to what we see/don’t see/hear/don’t hear from one another. To a musician…especially a choral musician…that is a huge deal. Regardless of who we are or where we are in relation to the podium, this is a crucial element that we can’t get back. We have the gift of great technology. Sadly, it isn’t filling in all the gaps.
What will COVID-19 leave in its wake?
I wish I knew. The 24-hour news cycle is doing a number on all of us. The cheeky high school students who didn’t get why they needed to practice “social distancing” especially since they were young and not at risk receive their wake-up call with each piece of breaking news. While the depth of my seniors’ emotions in response to losing out on the spring musical, prom, spring concert, Baccalaureate Mass, and commencement are still there, they are waking up to hear frightening statistics that are getting closer to home by the hour. More than a few of my students have parents or relative who work on the front line in our local hospitals.
We’re all doing our best to get through this. Hopefully, we won’t lose any members of our community. We don’t know what will happen to the rites of passage our seniors have waited for. We don’t know when we will see one another again.
It is almost time for my Monday afternoon APMuTh Zoom Room to open. My students and I will greet one another and ask how each of us is doing as we start another week of the new “normal.” Until next week, I hope you will stay well and safe and make good decisions. After all, we are all #alonetogether.
Stay well and safe…