Last week our teachers returned to the school building. For most, it had been 168 days. For many, it was the first place they were inside with people outside of their family, not even visiting a store. I knew emotions would be varied and elevated. I knew I would have to speak to everyone on that first day and for the first time in a long time, I felt speechless. I also had known this day was coming (or maybe I thought it might not) so I should have been better prepared.
During the night, I found myself waking up thinking about what to say. This year was off to a different start, a sad one in my mind. I didn’t have my usual staff slideshow set to an upbeat tune or my inspirational picture book to read. I was feeling unsure of how to begin. The next morning as I drove in silence still thinking of the message to start the year, suddenly I felt a feeling of joy- joy that I was not going to be alone in the building anymore but surrounded by my work family that I had been so distanced from. I was happy to be going to work- the anxiousness was not completely gone, but it was overshadowed with my happiness and eagerness to begin a new year. I realized that I needed to tell everyone how I was feeling and that’s what I did.
As I stood before 60 plus staff members, I told them that I didn’t have the usual slide show to start the year. I didn’t have a read aloud and I didn’t have my treat jar ready to go. This year is and will be different.
One of my favorite parts of the quarantine at home was the creation of new traditions- it was something that I wrote about a lot this summer and used to get me through the time. So, I am going to carry that thinking to this school year. This might be a year of new traditions for me, maybe for the staff, too.
We may have a slide show, but I have a different idea for that. I have no doubt I will read aloud, but it may be next week or two weeks from now. And, I will find a way to provide treats safely to everyone. (This was done via an ice cream truck that afternoon.) Some things might just be different, but they don’t have to be any less thoughtful and I hope they will provide just as much comfort and joy.
We will find new ways to teach, to be together, and to build our community. Most important is that we need to show our students and one another that we care- that’s what the book I wanted to read to the staff our first day was about, but it didn’t arrive on time. Fortunately, I found the book on YouTube animated and put to music. I asked the staff to watch the link when they returned to their classrooms.
This picture book, While We Can’t Hug, by Eoin McLaughlin is worth sharing at this time. I hope this school year we can live up to its message that we might be limited, but we can still find ways to make our students and each other feel loved. And, there’s always room for new traditions…