I know they will show up. Sooner or later. Still, I had to suppress the urge last week to simply lay down in the breezeway where I have my table. I could just lay there, motionless, waiting for someone or something to come along. Then I would spring into action, providing all the attention and care that our students and our families deserve.
But some days it's hard to fill the empty moments. I do research, and track text messages and emails that come in from staff and parents looking for tech solutions. I update our website and Facebook page.
And I stare out into that empty playground. A year ago, by eight o'clock on a weekday morning, I would be wading through a couple hundred kids, ready to start a day. Waiting for that bell to ring. There is no bell now. There are not hundreds of kids. On a good day, I might see a dozen, and never all at once. Not unless I drop into a Zoom meeting to make an announcement. Or simply to gather that teacher juju that I had blithely ignored before everything changed.
Last Tuesday, one of our kindergarten teachers had invited some of her students to come to the school, one at a time, for testing. We set up a couple tables outside, observing social distance, and when the first five year old came with her mother, they sat down a couple yard from their teacher and proceeded to work through the online assessment in a way that made sense. When time and patience was up for all concerned, it was time to hand off to the next little girl who had shown up and waited patiently with her mother on a bench. That bench would at one time have been full of children who had transgressed in some minor way and needed a time-out. Not now. That bench and all the others are empty.
When the first five year old came back across the playground, she saw her classmate and they both lit up. Smiles and waves. "Mom! That's Sherry! She's in my class! Hi, Sherry!" And Sherry responded in kind. Such behavior isn't so novel, except that the only way these two girls would have seen one another would have been on Zoom meetings each morning for the past two months. They are kindergartners who have been introduced to school in the most ridiculous way imaginable. And yet, they were friends. They said so. I have no reason to doubt that.
And my heart was, for the moment, filled with that juju of which I spoke earlier. There is still so very much that we are missing and cannot recreate over Al Gore's Internet. The inability we have to suffer as we create new abilities as educators and educated is confounding and still attempting to diffuse. But for just a few minutes there, I was back on the playground. With kids. It gave me hope.