This isn’t September.
I know the calendar says it is September.
But, this isn’t September.
Let me explain why.
In the morning and the afternoon, the sound of a school bus no longer rumbles through our neighborhood streets.
I don’t see parents, their children, and the family dog gathered at bus stops.
When I am working on the grounds at my church, I no longer hear the happy playground voices of children carrying through the air from the nearby Tuckahoe Elementary School.
The early morning practice sounds of the Douglas Freeman High School marching band are silent.
I do not hear the voice of the PA announcer calling out the progress of a junior varsity football game as twilight falls over our backyard.
This isn’t September.
Those school sights and sounds are packed away all across America.
We have traded in their normalcy for a virtual educational setting.
All caused by a mindless virus intent on creating chaos. A disrupting demon, who finds joy in extending the mileage of division between us.
The stories from the first weeks of school are different. How could they not be?
I heard from a veteran high school teacher—“the toughest first week of my career.”
A friend who has a daughter who teaches kindergarten students had two parents arguing on line about the short break students were given in class.
Another friend who has a daughter teaching at the high school level described a virtual disruption to her class. The voice of a stranger entered her classroom and began to bad mouth another teacher.
And then there is the mute button.
Students mute and unmute themselves at will. Of course, a non-muted computer is perfect for students to improve their vocabulary. Especially, when a parent observer in the background uses inappropriate language that every student hears.
Now if teaching wasn’t already one of the most challenging professions in the world, at this very moment, the degree of difficulty for teachers has increased a million times.
And like always, teachers, their schools, and their school systems have been called upon to do the impossible.
Do not even attempt to tell me teachers had it easy before COVID-19, and that they have it even easier now. If this is your mentality, I suggest you make an appointment with your local neurologist and have your brain completely rewired.
Teachers, like you, me, we, us are imperfect.
And, like all professions cast into the public spotlight there are good teachers and teachers who struggle to be good.
Without question, technology is a powerful tool.
Our world is in its grips. And unless there is a profound shift, we will continue to be grasped by technology.
But no matter how good technology might be, some students will struggle to learn with this tool.
Despite the efforts of school systems to provide a tablet or laptop to every student, the human infrastructure at home might not be in place to help that student adjust to this new classroom.
Part of my psychological makeup is that I am a worrier. And right now, I am worried about those students who are going to struggle mightily with this current virtual classroom environment.
Essential foundation skills are taught in every elementary school across America. How are we to insure that students are developing competency?
How are we going to help those students who are not building those basic skills? How can we intervene virtually?
Will these students fall so far behind that catching up will become a part of their permanent records—this is a COVID-19 student who fell behind because the virtual classroom setting was unable to offer the type of instruction this student needed.
During my career in education, I had the privilege of working at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. I have worked with teachers in our department of corrections schools, and I even went back into the classroom to teach for a couple of years in a private high school.
That’s a lot of Septembers, and for the most part they were normal openings to the school year.
But, I have never seen a school September like this.
And, I am sure that lots of students, parents, and teachers hope they never see a September like this again.
As tough as this one is, teachers can’t whine in self-pity.
Whining zaps energy.
That energy is needed to keep nudging the students forward.
Somehow in the early stages of World War II, when England was bombed consistently by the Germans, Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, kept his wits and never stopped believing in the people of Britain.
Right now, we can’t let teachers lose their wits.
We must believe in them.