The famous cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC reached the peduncle elongation stage last week, then burst into peak bloom several days before expected. The high temperatures and warm sun have brought on the full glory of a DC spring – just in time for local school children to enjoy Spring Break.
Like thousands of blossom watchers, teachers keep their eyes on Board of Education meetings, trying to anticipate when a vote might suddenly change everything. It’s happened so many times during this pandemic year, that almost nothing has been a total surprise for educators who read the signs. However, when Governor Hogan announced suddenly that schools needed to reopen March 1st instead of March 15th, school districts scrambled, loud-mouths bloviated, and unvaccinated teachers panicked. It was the equivalent of rushing from the Green Bud phase to the Fluffy Blossom phase without anything in between and way before the cameras were ready.
With the possible exception of air-traffic controllers, teachers are probably the best multi-taskers in the world. You want us to teach online and in-person at the same time? Sure, no problem! You want us to work on social-emotional health while mitigating “learning loss” with just two hours a week of contact time? Sure! Asynchronous lessons using a new platform and grading program? Got it! Student Learning Objectives posted? Check. Opportunities for one-to-one time and reteaching? Of course! Just come to our “office hours.” Oh, it’s my evaluation year? I can do the dog-and-pony show, too!
In my district, 60% of students have opted to remain virtual, but parents and politicians have been pushing hard – very hard – to reopen school buildings before it’s Covid safe. Schools with the most number of parents opting for the return to in-person instruction happen to be in the wealthiest communities. Ironically, they are the ones to argue that it’s for the poor kids, the English Language Learners, and the black and brown students. But the data and my experience says something else.
I teach high school seniors and, even though they’ve been 100% virtual for the past year, less than half are coming back to the building after spring break. My district has had meeting after meeting after meeting about getting kids back into the building – but few resources have been directed to the majority of students who opt to remain at home through the end of the year. It’s a highly emotional issue that’s pitted parents against teachers. The rhetoric has been exhausting.
Spring Break is supposed to be a time of rest and renewal. So far, I’m feeling the pleasure of elongated days, even though I’m spending part of them grading all the late student essays that need feedback. The beautiful DC weather and spectacular cherry blossoms, tulip trees, flowering pears, forsythia, and daffodils make me smile. This weekend, fully vaccinated, I will be able to hug my elderly mother for the first time in more than a year.