She came running across the room and was in my face before I knew it. Big bright eyes, and a knob of hair twisted up on each side of her head and a smile that forged through her too big Cindy Lou Who teeth and blurted out, “Who are you?” “You look like you are nice” she added. I replied, “so do you!” as she grabbed my hand and led me over to the table where she was working with her 5th grade friends.
Kids. Oh how I have missed kids. Wednesday of this week, March 30, 2022 was the first day I have been allowed back in schools since the world shut down Friday, March 13th 2020. Two full years without access to classrooms. Two freakin’ years without access to the heart and soul of what I do, the bread and butter, the reason for doing it all…these kids. Soul singing, I sat and languished in it all. Kids with noses in books, kids in loud sobbing tears, kids playing games, kids writing, kids in small group instruction, kids working independently, kids working with partners, kids roaming the halls, kids, kids, kids everywhere. Oh how I have missed those faces, the indescribable thrumb of a classroom in process, the amazing patience of teachers and how intently they listen to their students, face to face listening, deeply listening and responding to every move, disruption and celebration all in one breath.
I forget just how exhaustingly beautiful this profession is.
And for all of my intentions to remain somewhat invisible as I observed, just wanting to get a sense of where these teachers and their students lived and how they spent their days, I went hardly unnoticed. In fact, my presence seemed to cause a disruption in just about every room I went into. I wondered, had I lost my touch of effortlessly slipping into a classroom, sitting myself down in a tiny chair alongside readers and writers or was it something else?
“Is she someone’s mom?”
“No, she is just here to observe for a little bit, I mean she might be someone’s Mom, but not of anyone in this class.”
“What is she doing here? Can my Mom come in?”
And he wouldn’t quit. The interrogation into who I was completely disrupted this teacher and her small group work. I skulked down lower in my blue plastic molded seat and gave the teacher an apologetic look for such a disruption. And then I realized, this was a novelty not only for me, but for everyone. They had not HAD visitors in two years either. I take a breath and acknowledge once again how the pandemic effect reaches out, creating moments that you are just not prepared for.
And this is just on the surface, as I look around at seas of faces and wonder, how has the pandemic effect affected you and you and you and you and you screaming and crying shamelessly out loud for being offended? What social graces have been lost? What emotional barriers have been built? What fears linger for those who still choose to come to school amongst newly naked faces, with your mask still tightly wound around your face?
And then there are those teachers’ faces. More weary than I recall as they have to teach as well as manage all of the outside noise, disruption, distrust, disillusion, and downright attacks on their profession, their lives, their livelihood, their very souls from an arena outside that has very little, if anything to do with what these people do and how they perform and keep moving forward each and every day, every hour, every moment.
I can’t help but think how lucky these kids are to have such talented, expert, devoted and dedicated teachers show up each and every day for them.
Lift them up. Ask what they need. Offer your time or your hands or your resources. Engage in the community of real live people with an open heart and open mind. Take all that time you devote to ripping people apart on social media and get involved with living, breathing people in real spaces, face to face. We can do that now! Leave the screens, the echo chambers, the talking heads and your tag lines at the door. Re-engage and reconnect to beating hearts with love. Someone may just say, “hey, you look like a nice person.” and you may reply, “so do you”.