On my first first-day of school, I was four and my mother walked me down Torresdale Avenue to the playground preschool where I would learn how to color and paint and cut with big girl scissors. Skills I needed along with sharing and taking turns, as I already knew how to read and write and count.
Since then, I’ve missed three first days. Once, when I was on maternity leave. Once, when we had a family emergency. And once last Tuesday, my forty-ninth first day, on what would have been my thirtieth as an educator. Instead of donning my mask and joining my colleagues in our building, I logged in from home.
Exactly where I did not want to be.
The day before, I’d checked off the last of my summer to-dos. I received an almost immediate acceptance on one of my short stories. My daughter and I shopped for her wedding dress, and I smiled through tears when she said yes to one that makes her look like a princess.
After six months of upheaval, I felt calm. In control.
And then my son texted me.
His co-worker had tested positive for Covid, which meant he had to be tested, which meant he could have exposed the rest of us.
So much for tranquility.
My principal told me to stay home. Better safe than sorry, she said, and she’s right, though part of me wished I hadn’t said anything. I want my life back. I want my routines and my classroom. The first day joy of a new year, new students. Celebrating and commiserating with colleagues. Instead, I had to jettison nearly everything I’d planned to accomplish during our two teacher days because I wasn’t allowed in the building.
I know, I know. It’s not just a me thing. Same storm, different boat I wrote in an earlier post. We’re all struggling.
Like being alone in the middle of the ocean, said our curriculum coordinator during one virtual meeting. Some days the waters are calm. And some days the storms leave you hanging on for dear life–seasick and buffeted by waves, desperately bailing the onslaught so you can somehow stay afloat.
Thank the stars, I know how to swim. I’ve built a sturdy boat, and I’m sailing with a good crew.
And although I cannot predict the storms, I can prepare for them and teach my students how to navigate them together.
Because that’s what education should do. Teach us how to thrive no matter the weather.
I’m grateful my storm last week proved minor. I learned some cool tech hacks during in-service. I reconfigured my class plans. Most importantly, my son tested negative and my family remains healthy.
Tomorrow, my district begins virtual instruction, and I’ll join my colleagues in our building for our students’ first day. My fingers are crossed for smooth sailing… but I’ve packed a life vest and flares just in case.