Ugh. Another first day of school, another round of tears. But this year was different. The tears weren’t for kindergartners getting on the bus for the first time. The tears weren’t because I was worried about how the boys would do in school or how I would miss them. The tears were because of how different everything looks – how different it feels, how different everything will be for them this year.
There was so many new elements for the kids this year. The masks were more than uncomfortable for them. The masks changed their interactions and their first day of school. They couldn’t recognize each other, I couldn’t recognize the teachers I had known for years by just looking at their eyes. Kids couldn’t see each other smiling at each other or giving them a reassuring look of “it’s going to be ok.” Teachers couldn’t see the nervous expressions of kids that needed a little more love and support. So much was missing. There was so much emotion for the kids, but as adults that usually help them navigate it, you couldn’t see it. It was hard on my heart. I feel bad for the teachers and counselors that are going to have to work through a year without facial clues and expressions.
Then there was the school itself, it was also different. Elementary schools are places where kids play, laugh, and work together. This year it all looks so foreign. There were circles on the parking lot 6 feet apart where they will have outdoor PE. And while, I love that they will still have a chance to be active while remaining safe, sports is more than just the physical activity. It’s about playing on a team, working together, learning how to win and lose, and so much more. The circles seemed the opposite of that – they seemed so isolating. I felt the same sense of sadness in the classrooms. While the teachers are doing their best to make the spaces fun and safe, it’s hard to look that the new classrooms filled with plexiglass and structured seating and not be a little sad. My kid’s favorite part of the classroom was the flexible seating and playing with their friends during indoor recess. They loved being able to snuggle up in the corner with a good book or sit on a bouncy ball while listening to a story. Now they will have to sit in their assigned seat all day 3 feet apart from any of their friends. It’s hard to see.
Lastly, it was hard to see the teachers. Let’s be honest, elementary school teachers are special. They care for and love on our children all day long. They work side by side with them to teach them some of the most important lessons of all – how to get along with others, how to be kind and respectful, how to work together and so much more. They give comforting hugs, huge smiles and a sense of warmth that is undeniable. It was heart-breaking to see so much of that missing today. While the teachers were there in person, you could tell they were out of their element. They wanted to hug and high-five the kids that were nervous on their first day in a big, new building. They wanted to give a reassuring smile to a mom that was crying at the drop-off line. They wanted to be there for their students how they always had been. Instead they stood there awkwardly in their “zone” and reminded all of the students to stay 3 feet apart from one another. I know it was just the first day, and it will all become more comfortable as the days go on in our “new normal,” but my heart broke just the same.
Amongst all the change, I know that everyone is doing their best, and that in a few short months, schools were forced to change how they operate, their learning environment and so much more. I am happy that our district is opening their doors to the kids and letting them come back to school. I am grateful that they are taking the virus seriously and using extra precautions to keep the kids safe. I appreciate all that has been done to allow there to be a first day of school. Virtual learning was hard, but this virus is real, and I don’t want to see anyone I know become infected with it. My rational brain knows that all of the new things I saw today are necessary and an important way of keeping our kids safe during these crazy times, but it was still hard to not compare it to normal years past.
All this being said, I know the boys will do great. They will persevere and learn resilience in an ever-changing world. They will adapt to the new version of school, and just like their mama, they will make the best of it. Good luck to all kids, teachers and mamas out there as we navigate this crazy year together!