Polly looked up at us, all us adults, and asked a question. She was the last of the kindergartners to parade through our makeshift drive-through promotion ceremony. Polly and her parents had stopped, received the certificate, goody bag and completed work packet, then moved to the photo spot for a great many shots of Polly holding many of those items. She posed with permutations of those assembled adults. Her parents. Her teacher. Her teacher and her parents. And so on. As the last student to officially be matriculated at our school in our ersatz ceremony, she was the focus of all of our attention when she asked, "What happens next?"
There were some quick answers: "To the candy store!" "To lunch at grandma's!" "Summer vacation!"
I waited for a moment and put in my two cents: "First grade."
Polly gave me a furrowed brow. "I don't know how to do monkey bars." She went on to explain that she had other concerns, but not having spent any time during her first year of school climbing on the play structure was chief among them. She had not spent any real time confronting this worry, since she had only just now come up close and personal with monkey bars.
As a grownup, I felt compelled to reassure her, telling her that there would be plenty of time to learn all about such things, and more math and more reading too. This did not have the effect that I had hoped. It was just more future waiting for her out there. In that amorphous expectant place.
Looking at that worried little face, I felt empathy. For the past week, I had a great many parents, staff and fellow teachers asking me the same question: "What happens next?" Except their concerns existed somewhere outside the realm of monkey bars. They wanted to know what school would look like in August. Would we all still be relying on our connections to Al Gore's Internet, or would we be seeing one another in the flesh? Five days a week? Full time? Would lunch be served?
I did not know how to answer these questions, except to say that there were still plenty of details to tack down and even if there were decisions made they would, as they have been for the past year and a half, be subject to change as we all begin to emerge from our COVID bunkers and step out into the light. Two months, as we have learned, can bring sea change. Like the leap into return to school. Like that dive into first grade.