How can I still be in a classroom, and still love teaching, even this year, you might ask? Well it isn’t necessarily due to anything particularly done by the greater public or certainly not all the ups and down of working around COVID protocols. There is just something that happens when, text in hand, I sit among readers and writers, and we talk complex characters or plot twists or even a last word, that just fuels me. We are in need of some hope, and whether plodding though Shakespeare’s Hamlet or being somewhat horrified by Shelley’s Frankenstein, or discovering the images and poetry generated during the short life of Basquiat, my student’s visions and imagery and words grant a faith in mankind I might not have found without them.
In the early light, is there anything that holds more promise than a school building? Students arrive via bus or car or bike or foot, teachers too, all bringing a tangible energy, filled with all the opportunity in this day. I always smile driving up the hill to this grand building, the original section completed in 1928. I have spent nearly 3 decades working here, discussing story and craft and everything in between with students from 9th grade to 12th. This year that hopeful energy is even more palatable, because we are back full-time and in-person doing whatever is needed to keep our community safe, even graciously donning a mask. Heroes if you ask me as sacrifice has become the norm.
Two months ago we started a national effort to school students from home. Each state, perhaps even each district, dealt with this transition differently. I could not be prouder of my colleagues or my students for rising to meet this challenge head on with the full intention to keep our school community together. Twice a week I meet with all my students, through google meets, additional emails and individual meetings and phone calls. They have learned, I have learned, and swiftly we adapted to a digital forum. As a teacher of reading and writing, I have been privy to the inner thoughts and reflections of many students during this unprecedented time. They are experiencing a topsy-turvy new day to day of sheltering with all its crazy chaotic difficult challenges, yet still continue to show up digitally and wow me. Tonight, I thought I’d share some of their voices, their hopes and dreams, and everyday afternoons.