I’m So Glad That We’re All Back Together Again

socially-distance classroom
Kahla is teaching 3rd grade at a local elementary school for the 2020-21 school year.

May the smiling eyes be bright
May the soap dispenser never run out
May the masks not muffle our voices too much

And may we all leave school tomorrow with full hearts.

As an elementary teacher, this is a year unlike any other in my years of working in education. How is it going so far, you ask? Here is my take on things after our first few days:

The kids are doing well. There are 700 more routines to learn this year and they are taking it in stride. They are laughing together at funny books and asking a million questions about each other’s pets. Some of them are remembering to say “thank you” to the adults who help them. They still spell ‘awesome’ as ‘owsom,’ and they look for their teacher’s affirmation 100 times an hour. They are glad to be with friends again, but this whole “personal space bubble” thing is for the birds.

And the masks….they are doing so well, really. They aren’t complaining about wearing them, but celebrating the moments when they can de-mask. But of course the masks are getting chewed on and gaiters pulled up to foreheads. We are asking parents to send in photos of their kids smiling without a mask on for bulletin boards, or for photos we can prop on their desk so when we look their way we have a way to see their whole face. We are playing games using our eyebrows to express even more emotions than usual.

But, there’s another side to the coin of the kids being fine. There are adults making sure the kids are doing well, and that’s a whole different story. From the support staff at school creating new cleaning and food systems, all the way up to the highest administrators, we are running ragged. The protocols/recommendations are changing at such a rapid clip that what we thought was best practice yesterday, is now out the window. We are doing jobs we have never imagined, in a setting that is contrary to what recent research shows about education. Some of us are filling multiple roles and feel like “Jack of all trades, master of none.” In a single classroom we are refilling our cleaner bottles and calling for paper towel refills and serving meals and teaching handwriting and growth mindset and math and reading and writing and science and social studies and PE and music and art and technology. And we can’t end the day with a hug goodbye. Think about your worry for your 1-6 children, and extrapolate that out to 15 or 100 students. We are loving on the kids with our words and laughing with them and that, my friends, is the kernel that is keeping us going. Or at least it is what is keeping me going.

Today my kiddos wrote about their favorite part of the first day of school. There was evidently a great game of tag at recess that many of them enjoyed. And some who were happy to be in class with me. But my favorite was the last line of one student’s paragraph, (paraphrasing a line from a responsive classroom chant we did yesterday):

“I’m so glad that we’re all back together again.”

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Kahla hails from Wisconsin, but heard the siren (loon?) song of Minnesota calling as she selected a college. Then, after eight years living in the Boston area for graduate school, her family moved to Rochester in the summer of 2010. Kahla and her husband have two children: one daughter and one son. They enjoy spending time outside, especially on Rochester’s hiking and bike trails. She loves finding inexpensive ways to pass time, and also enjoys her favorite form of recycling: shopping at thrift stores and yard sales. An avid reader her entire life, working as a school librarian is the perfect fit for her outgoing, book-loving personality. She also enjoys running, baking and knitting. She loves spending time with her family, book club, and running group.