Mark My Words — Education and Family during Covid-19

One night I was attending a Kalamazoo Wings hockey game. I checked my phone during the game, as I always do, and learned that the NBA had suddenly suspended their season.   The next day, the K-Wings announced that their season was suspended.  Later that night, it was announced that our schools were closing down for three weeks.

The dominos were starting to fall and quickly, but no one really knew what to expect.

Everything was changing so fast that it was hard to process what was going on.

That Friday at school was a blur.  Administrators were caught off guard.  Teachers were left scrambling to figure out how to get enough work together to cover that three-week period, by the end of the day, all while still teaching!  It was a crazy day, but teachers and staff at every area school pulled together and got it done.

There were many unknowns as I said “see you later” to my students.  Did I expect we would not come together as a class again this school year?  No. Did I think that it may be extended?  Yes.

Everything was and still is up in the air.

As the last few weeks went by, it seemed the writing was on the wall, at least regarding the remainder of the school year.  While the news that schools would remain closed for the remainder of this school year was jarring, I really wasn’t surprised.  This new, almost unknown virus is turning our lives upside down.

Everyone’s lives.

I feel so bad for the students.  The seniors who can’t enjoy their last months of their high school career.   The athletes who can’t participate in spring sports, let alone those who couldn’t complete winter sports.  Band concerts, choir concerts, plays, spelling bees, field trips and the list goes on and on…will not happen.

I, myself, have an eighth grader who won’t finish her last year as a middle school student with her friends and a fifth grader who won’t be able to finish her last year as an elementary student.  That is hard to grasp for them.

In addition, I was to accompany my oldest daughter on her field trip this May to Washington, D.C.  That has been canceled.   Would my other daughter make her third and final spelling bee?  How would she do at the “Clue Me In” competition?  We will never know.

We have talked about this as a family and they get it. They understand the “why”, but that doesn’t take away the feeling of loss.  We are doing our best to make sure they are able to stay in touch with friends during this very surreal time of social distancing and quarantine!

For my wife and I, and teachers all over the state, it is hard on us as well.  Believe it or not, one doesn’t become a teacher for a few months off during the year.  We still work during those months, granted, not as hard as we do during the year.  If one only knew the hours at school and home that are put in by teachers, I think many would be surprised.  But that is not the point.  We care for the students, the children in our classrooms, day in and day out.  Not being able to have a proper “goodbye” to our year has left us with a big void as well.

Parents, you are feeling it, too.   I have already read comments on Facebook and other places about how to best help the children with their schoolwork.  Some have been positive, some negative.

Everyone is in the same boat.

As we embark on this journey over the next few months, let’s remember that not one of us asked for this. We all want our “old” lives back.  We are in this together.

There isn’t a perfect solution or answer.  We are all doing this for the first time.  Have grace with each other.  Have compassion for each other.  Be kind to each other.  Frustration and helplessness will happen.   Take a deep breath.    Ask questions.  Come back to it later.  Take a walk.  Play a game as a family.  Work on a puzzle.

If anything, hopefully this time will remind us of the importance of family.  Education is important, and teachers will do everything they can to continue the educational process during this uncharted time. But family is where it is at.  Reconnect.

Don’t give up hope.  Don’t despair.  We will get through this.  Together.

Submitted by Mark McGlothlen

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