You know how some people need to mark an occasion, to acknowledge the event in some formal, if formal even for just a moment, kind of way? No?
Hi, I’m Wendy, and I’m the kind of person who needs to mark an occasion, to acknowledge events in some formal, if formal even for just a moment, kind of way. I don’t know if this need is seated in some psychological obsessive tendency or maybe comes from something profoundly sad and terribly lacking in my personality inventory. I really don’t, but I do know that I need endings.
Sentimental dork and easy-cryer that I am, I don’t especially like endings, but they’re inevitable, and I need that balance, closure, some equalizer like that. I’m always the “Well, it’s the last time I’m going to be (wherever)” person. I take a moment to study the scenery, take a mental snapshot, cross the real or imaginary threshold, and bid it goodbye. Sometimes I even say the goodbyes aloud. Aaaaand after writing that I’m thinking my need to mark endings is less healthy than I’d thought previously. Anyway.
Friday is my last day of school this year. I know what you’re thinking–that technically my last day of school was March 13. That was the last day I was physically present at work, true, but many work days since the COVID-19-imposed quarantine have gone considerably longer than those worked when I was physically present in a school. Side note: working from one’s dining room table doesn’t allow one to “walk away” from work at the end of the day at all easily. When things don’t go your way, you carry that crabby the too-short distance between the dining room and your kitchen–I’ve discovered that my work commute, while bonkers on the nerves some days, is actually quite therapeutic on most of them. I downed fewer alcoholic beverages before being “safer at home,” begging the question, “Am I truly safer at home?” One personal discovery after another here in the zombie apocalypse. . . *insert eye roll here*
Anyway. I didn’t bid last school year its formal adieu because of my husband’s accident. I bolted from the building immediately upon hearing the news, and literally never looked back. Pre-pandemic, I believed that last year would be the weirdest end-of-school-year I’d ever experience. Ha! Ha ha, said the universe! You thought last year was weird, well, let me show you what 2020 has in store for you. . .
I’ve become a capable distance educator since we’ve been sent to our quarters. I’ve created Google Classrooms, updated our department website, participated in too many Google Hangouts and Zoom meetings to inventory, uploaded, downloaded, created Boom cards, snail mailed, emailed, texted, and phoned families and colleagues. Working in the fourth most impoverished city in US comes with a unique set of online learning challenges, chief among them: kids not having computers or internet access in their homes. I miss my students’ faces and voices. I appreciate that I’m still working though I haven’t loved all of it–I’m a social being and a job in communication sciences and disorders is a pretty social gig–but I’ve managed.
Every teacher meme you’ve seen about the challenges of immediate upheaval of every practice you’ve known? Accurate. Every meme about the challenges of teaching your own children while trying to work from home? True! And my kids are old enough to manage independently. I can’t imagine working from home with children being any younger than my kids’ current ages. I could do without the “I’m quarantining more perfectly than you are” meme wars though. People, there’s enough uncertainty in the world–now is not the time for online vitriol. I mean, not that any time is a good time for being mean, but I think you see where I’m going here. Like the rest of the planet, we inhabitants are a bit off-balance. Be nice.
Anyway. Anyway for the third time now in this short post. . . I didn’t get to say goodbye to my school year my way. Again. How can the school year be done if I haven’t even tucked it in and said gnight? I love the end of year “parties” we celebrate in Speech. I love going out for lunch with my terrific coworkers–just like real professionals do, real grown-ups who also get to use the bathroom whenever they feel like it do–on the last day. I love hearing and saying, “Have a good summer!” I love cleaning off my desk, seeing a dust-free, clear desktop for about ten whole minutes, just sitting there soaking up the end until that bell rings one final time.
Not this year, I guess.
The ending I’m missing this year is nothing in comparison to what graduates of the Class of 2020 who watched rather than walked along to Pomp and Circumstance are missing. There’s something really lovely and hopeful about graduation types of endings. I remember well each of my four graduations. I was invited to speak at two of my ceremonies, and while at the time petrified a little, I was cognizant enough of the honor bestowed upon me to be recognized in this way at such a big event. Those days and events mattered to me, as they should and do to this year’s grads. I’m really sorry they don’t get to walk.
Last May, I sat in the hospital cafeteria, signing off to the group of about 40 SLPs I support, saying something like “tell the ones you love that you love them, because you never know what can happen once you walk out that door.” Never in my wildest dreams would I have dreamt that the final 1/3 of this school year would be canceled by pandemic, and the world being locked down has once again changed everything we thought we knew about going out that door. . .
I guess I’ll sign off this year with a similar reminder. Continue to be safe, and take care of the people you love most in this world, including yourselves. The pivot we’ve been forced to make as distance educators hasn’t been easy, but (and this comes as no surprise to me) my coworkers continue to rise to do what’s right for each other as colleagues as well as their students. I’m proud to be among such impressive company.
Have a good summer!