I did something today I haven’t done for two months: I worked at school. First I shot some video of our principal, then I helped clean out lockers.
It was hard.
Dr. Macias and I talked a bit about this year, and about the next. Next year’s kids will almost certainly be going to a school where they are rarely on campus, and never all on campus at the same time. Electives and physical education are particularly impacted. I teach digital media, and there is simply no way to be socially distant in a computer lab. I do not know how (or what) I will be teaching in August.
After the video, I went on locker duty.
Every locker is open. Most of them had school locks that were opened with a master key. Some had personal locks; those were opened with bolt cutters. Every unchecked locker has a profile page of the student to whom it’s assigned. It was the first time I had seen most of those faces since we closed.
The lockers are weird little ghosts of the students that once used them. Some students are organized – their lockers are usually empty. Some students are a little less focused. Their lockers look like mine did when I was their age: messy and stuffed with whatever weird trinkets I loved that week.
One of the lockers had a big pink and purple button that read “I REALLY WISH I WEREN’T HERE RIGHT NOW!” It was absolutely right and completely wrong. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be throwing student treasures into plastic bags. But I wanted to be there. I wanted to be making jokes with students, complaining about “that kid” to my friends at the lunch table, working out final grades, watching students get ready for high school and beyond.
Our eighth graders always have a big promotion ceremony. Family and friends fill the PE field. Awards are given. Crowds shout and applaud. Friends hug. Summers together are planned. Students get one last moment as a single group before they get split up and absorbed into larger schools, before they really make the first steps from adolescence to adulthood.
This year they will get a video they can watch at home. Teachers are working to make that video something special, but it will always be more isolated and distant. Next year will probably be even more disconnected.
I’m not in the center of this thing. I spent two hours bagging belongings, not two months bagging bodies. But if my tiny actions on the edge of this pandemic hurt this much, I can’t imagine what it’s like at the epicenter.
Take care of yourselves.
I really wish we weren’t here right now.