This is the year I became grateful for backpacks on the floor, shoes dumped in the foyer and lunch boxes in the sink.
Those jackets slung across the chair mean my kids left the house. They woke up in the wee hours of dawn. They boarded school buses with their friends. They went to school — actual brick-and-mortar school — and not the virtual expression of it. When they came home, enthused but exhausted, they littered their school stuff all across the house. I love that stuff. I embrace the mess. My heart is glad with the signs of normalcy.
How long will it last? I don’t know. Every time I scroll through Facebook, I see posts from friends about exposure notices. Sending my kids to school feels like playing Russian roulette.
My kids had a good experience with virtual learning last year. My daughter did WAVA, the online school option for students across Washington, and my son did eLearning Academy through the Edmonds School District. Both were wonderful programs taught by experienced educators who were well-versed in teaching online. But the part that was missing, the social part, cut deep.
Something that makes me particularly sad, sorry enough that I tear up when I think about it, is “sixth grade chairs.” At my daughter’s former elementary school, the sixth-graders got to sit in chairs during school assemblies.
For six years, kindergarten through fifth grade, my daughter sat on the floor with the other students, looking forward to the finale of her elementary education when she, too, would get to carry her chair into the auditorium and sit in style like the rest of the big kids. But then COVID-19 hit. Poof! That milestone vanished.
My son is lucky. He’s in 11th grade, which means there’s a chance, a really good chance, that next year he might have a normal senior year. He might even get to sign up and take the SAT without it being canceled again, and again and again.
Might… Maybe… There’s a chance… Dear Washington, please let my kids stay in school. They want this so much.
Here’s the thing: My kids aren’t the only ones who want this year to be a success. There are students across Washington who are desperate to stay in school. Desperate because virtual schooling was a failure for them. Desperate because isolation made them depressed. Desperate because their home environments were unstable. Desperate because they were bored, lonely, sad, annoyed… you name it.
Personally, I’ve morphed from someone who minds her own business to a mama bear ready to fight for these cubs. Talk to me about “medical freedom” and I will roar.
Schools should be safe places from polio, diphtheria, mumps, rubella and, yes, coronavirus. That’s why we’ve had vaccination requirements for as long as I can remember. When I was a teacher in California, I couldn’t get my teaching certificate until I proved that I was vaccinated.
That pile of school stuff by my front door? I adore it. Please let me trip on it every day.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.