In the accompanying photo, a first grader is waving to me, his teacher, as I drive by as part of a teacher parade last year while school was remote. This was the only way teachers and students could communicate in person at that time.
I used this photo along with a column about a year ago, when I wrote about how much teachers, like myself, wished we could have been in school with our students. Now, I am using it again, as a symbol of how far we have come since then. We made it through this most unusual school year, in the midst of a pandemic.
That parade was an emotional experience for everyone involved. We had suddenly lost our daily interactions with our students and peers. We did our best to provide a quality education from our homes to their homes, but it was not the same.
The year has been exhausting to many. Most teachers taught a combination of in-person and online students. Some students were back and forth. Keeping up with all of this wasn’t easy. Making up for lost time – the last several weeks of school last year – was also a difficult feat.
Still, we made it through a school year that was different from what we have ever experienced before. We did it through cooperation between students, parents and school personnel.
In August, kids were eager to get back to school. The break had caused us to realize all that we were missing – friends, connection, conversation, fun and learning. We all hoped that we would stay in school. That desire pulled us all together to do things that were hard.
One of the most controversial topics during the pandemic was also the very thing that helped us get back to in-person school and stay: masks. No one likes to wear masks. Teachers, especially, do not like to wear masks. We are talking, reading aloud, singing for several hours a day. Doing all of that while wearing a mask isn’t easy. But, knowing that wearing masks might help slow the spread of COVID, we did it.
As a teacher of young elementary school students, I dreaded the thought of repeatedly reminding my 6- and 7-year-old students to put their masks on. My dread turned out to be needless.
Remarkably, these young children had very few problems wearing their masks during school. They got used to it. Teachers got used to it. We learned ways to continue teaching and learning while wearing masks. Parents, students and teachers cooperated – and it worked.
Because of social distancing guidelines, we had to let some traditions and usual activities go for the year. But, in doing so, we truly discovered what was most important for our students. Whether they were online or in-person – or a combination of both due to quarantining, everyone worked together to ensure the best possible education.
In addition to being a teacher, I am a mom. Two of my children were seniors this year and what a crazy year it was. But, Pleasant Grove High School faculty and staff put in a lot of overtime and creativity to help these kids have the best experience possible, given the circumstances.
Rather than an indoor prom, they held an outdoor prom. Rather than canceling football games, they allowed smaller numbers to attend. Rather than resort to full remote learning, they created a schedule with a mix of remote and in-person.
Thank you to the teachers, the students and to the parents. Cooperation got us through this most difficult year. Normalcy is what we are all craving for next year. I am hoping to see the smiles on my students’ faces, to play games together without worrying about being too close, to enjoy some of our fun traditions again.
We did it!