Back to School in the New World

What a year we have had so far right? I bet you are getting tired of hearing that but it just fits everything we are experiencing. I know some people who are out and about, others who go out only when they have to and still others who have told me that they will not step outside until 2021. It really is a strange time that no one expected, especially our children. If you or I am having a tough time navigating this world, imagine what goes through their minds? This is back-to-school time nationwide and it is being handled very differently from town to town across our state and country. 

I am an educator, I teach adults and for the last 5 months I have been teaching online. In the beginning it was an adjustment because I enjoy engaging with my students and the interaction in the classroom.Slowly, I adapted, I had no choice and now I enjoy the virtual teaching life. Then September came and we were asked how we felt about going back into the classroom. 

Meanwhile, back at home my daughter was getting ready to start high school. A time that is wrought with adolescent awkwardness and excitement usually, is turned into not such a great start. What I mean is that she was so looking forward to picking just the right outfit. (We shopped-what is up with this new style of wearing expensive sweats and sneakers, I will write about that sometime soon.) She planned her hairstyle and would kill me if she knew I was writing about it! 

We then got the email that said it was going to be 100% virtual for the first marking period. Mixed feelings, yes because I want her to interact socially with her friends. Was I relieved because I could see in my mind kids not wearing their masks in school?  (Not washing their hands all the time, and not social distancing as they should because I teach adults and I see this on our campuses.) As much as it is enforced, people don’t follow rules all of the time, myself included. It is not on purpose and to disregard anyone’s health, but sometimes it just happens. Teenagers by definition live to break the rules. So yes, I was a little relieved that she would be safe at home at least for the first marking period. 

I did sign for her to go hybrid and that will maybe change also because I don’t want to live in fear and I don’t want her to live in fear. I grapple with this on a daily basis with my students, some of them have quit programs, failed courses because they can’t bring themselves to overcome their fears. I respect them. I also ask if I am putting my health at risk from time to time. It is a lot of responsibility to deal with, which is new. Stress and responsibility are not a new thing for many of us, but these new daily dilemmas are. So what is the right answer? I don’t know, no one really does. There are those who walk around everywhere without a mask and tell you that this is all a government conspiracy. There are others who drive themselves wearing a face shield, a mask and gloves!!! 

So for back to school 2020 what do we do, I say and this is just me, do what makes you feel safe. In the end it is all that you can do, in doing so respect what other parents are doing and what teachers are asking. We are all in this together and we want our world to keep functioning. The first step in that direction is to understand we are all going through this together. 

I am in the classroom a few days a week, I wear my mask, wash my hands, take temperatures, sanitize and pray. This has been working for me so far, I wish you the best and safest return to school for you and your family. If you feel overwhelmed, it is ok, we are all feeling that way. 

Ask for help if you need it, accept it and go on. Remember, we are all human and we all could use compassion. 

Alexandra Centurion may be reached at Connect with WeekenderNJ on Facebook, Twitter and IG.