Missing the Massive Energy
"I had never recognized the value of having a single building packed with educators ready to watch me succeed, with kids who shared my experience of being in the same place every day."
Every time we sat down on those really intense, and often high stress board meetings, I think the thing that I would always try to do to calm myself and think about as a priority is that I wanted to represent as best as I could, what I was really hearing from teachers and students. I mean, at the very beginning there were things like what's going on with absences? What happens if I can't log into class? How do I get a computer? It's near impossible to identify the pandemic as a sole experience for students because it affected people in so many different ways and laid bare the disparities that we already had in the first place. I was sort of challenged with how can I convey to the board what students and kids are feeling? How can I convey all of these sort of very specific questions in a way that's authentic to their concerns?
And I think that that was really important for me to understand that even though, you know, we might have some statistics saying that there is a relatively less risk now than there was a day before, it's still important to listen to a teacher who is afraid to go into work. It's still important to listen to a student who was afraid of getting their grandparents sick. Those are all things that are not a part of a holistic calculus that became so much more important. And a lot of those voices routinely got ignored.
School in the pandemic definitely required a renewed discipline. Beforehand, I had taken for granted how much of a support system school can be. I had never recognized the value of having a single building packed with educators ready to watch me succeed, with kids who shared my experience of being in the same place every day. A focus on academics comes naturally in school buildings – because every part of a school is designed to help a kid's education. My room didn't have that. I had to make myself get things done, there was no teacher watching over my shoulder to help. There were no friends in the hallways to share my latest classroom experiences with. There were no extracurriculars to relieve my end-of-day stress. Suddenly, everything I had been accustomed to doing with the help of others became independent.
I miss the life that was present in my school. There was something so exciting about walking into the building and meeting my friends, and then seeing another 2,000 students excited to do exactly the same thing. Schools before the pandemic were a place for kids to find themselves – to experiment both academically and socially. I miss the massive energy that came in and out of the doors during every bell.
I've learned how important it is for me to be with others. During the pandemic, "social distancing" became more than a public health protocol, it became a way of life. I was set apart from my peers, friends, teachers, and everyone who I never knew had such a profound impact on my education. I didn't realize how important it was for me just to say hi to a teacher in the hallways, or make a comment to my friend during class. Those small but consistent interactions are the ones which I had always overlooked, and now I've realized how instrumental they are in keeping me engaged and excited about my education.