The Fourth P of 2020

Others are writing more profoundly about the meaning of 2020: Politics, Pandemic, and Protests. I can only write about the 4th P: the Personal. The Personal includes my family, my community, and my experience teaching public high school during the most disruptive year of my professional career. 

I miss my students. People keep asking me how they’re doing. My answer: I don’t know. Most of them attend my Zoom classes most of the time. Most of them turn in assignments most of the time. I don’t see them or hear them. Cameras are off and their microphones are on mute. I teach to little black boxes with names written in white. I teach like I’m a radio dee jay in a sound booth.

It’s the students who don’t attend class and don’t turn in work who worry me. I spend a lot of time reaching out students who have disappeared. I contribute money for PTSA gift cards and support the MCPS Foundation. I post links to food distribution sites and help students navigate the Pandemic-EBT card requirements. I call parents, and I email counselors. I chat with co-teachers and document every outreach effort in our new Synergy system. My ESOL department chair says that we’ve “lost” 11 students so far this year, students who have been withdrawn from school. I’m really worried about what this means going forward. 

I miss my hard drive. In July I spilled a glass of water on my laptop, losing more than two years of creative writing and work. I thought everything was backed up in iCloud, but only my photos were saved (and I am very grateful for that). I lost all of my writing from my year living in Laos. This spring, I was at my most prolific and am publishing my first short story based on this writing. I am devastated by the loss of personal documents. 

I miss my family. Like the rest of the country, I’m in mourning about what we’ve lost this year: 340,000 people to Covid-19, dozens of black lives that matter, countless graduations, proms, weddings, funerals, and homecomings. I haven’t hugged my mother in 10 months. I haven’t seen my son since last Christmas.

My relatives are divided by politics. Those who remain in the Deep South supported the Vulgarian in the White House for a second term. I could not fathom what qualities in him they admired. Then I figured it out. My respect for them has diminished. My siblings are divided by decisions about my mother’s health care and estate management. I am grieving for the togetherness we have lost. 

A crisis does not build character; it reveals character. 2020 has shown who we are as a country. It has shown who my family really is. I still love them. I still love my country. A new year always brings hope. 

2020

Published by

evaksullivan

Eva K. Sullivan teaches English Language Learners in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland. She was an English Language Fellow with U.S. Department of State during the 2017-2018 school year, working with the Ministry of Education in Laos, Southeast Asia. She writes short stories, personal essays, and has completed a memoir about her experiences as an expat in West Africa in the 1990s.

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