My husband and I don't have any children of our own. Then again, we chose that for ourselves in part because we each have more than 150 kids. Each year. Others call them our students, but they are more than that to us. And today, with only two days of warning, each of our kids left us. Maybe for only a few weeks. Maybe for longer. Covid-19 leaves too many unknowns.
Each year, I am used to saying goodbye. Seniors graduate. Sophomores become Juniors. Students change teachers at semester-time. But today was unlike any of those goodbyes. An ominous aura had crept in over the weekend—a frosty fog on a winter morning—stilting laughter and leaving hallways almost bare. I hadn’t felt so many heavy hearts in one building, so much palpable anxiety, since 9-11.
And while some covered up their discomfort with, “I’m just gonna play video games and sleep,” others wore their anxiety openly. One student stopped by my room for a hug only to realize that hugging goodbye wasn’t an option in this era of social distancing. Another turned in a final essay that was supposed to be about Their Eyes Were Watching God, but that instead had a nugget buried within that read, “I’m going to miss you: I’m going to miss being around adults who care.” And another, after slathering her hands and arms in sanitizer, handed me a small handmade card that had only one, quite fancy, word inside: “Thanks.”
It’s no surprise, really, that when others post on social media that at 'least they can spend some quality time with their family', I tear up. My family, as sappy as it may sound, is comprised of mainly my students. My family that is now being quarantined away from me.
So, when students asked if I would help them turn some simple, optional journal entries into something more collaborative—like this website—I was quick to agree. I’m a sucker for anything that keeps me in touch with the teenagers in my family (just ask my husband: I’m on Snapchat constantly, staying in contact with my nieces). I’m sure many of them, at least until they read this, just assumed my willingness to serve as the editor-in-chief of this site was more about wanting to keep them learning and growing. While they’re not wrong in this assumption, they’ve missed my key motivator: I don’t know how to not stay connected to my family.