It’s been a year since my school district sent us home because we’d had our first case of Covid-19 at a campus.
One of the last things I did in the classroom in person with my English seniors was watch the movie I Am Not Your Negro as part of the James Baldwin unit. It was the week before Spring Break, and I knew it would be a week where our attention was hit or miss. I figured a change of pace would be welcome.
They asked me before we left for Spring Break, “do you think we’ll be coming back after break?” We knew what was going on in the world. We knew the virus was already in the US. I had made it out of Seattle in January before the first news reports of Covid-19 in the US. But I teach in an urban public school, and I knew our district was always gun-shy when it came to giving us days off.
I told them “I’m preparing myself mentally for returning after Spring Break. So I’ll see you after Break.” I used my teacher voice. No, not the loud one. The one where I exude confidence and reassurance.
I didn’t see them. In fact, we didn’t get to finish the week. We were sent home on Thursday, and teachers didn’t officially return to campus until October 2020.
I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t know I wouldn’t see my students in person again that school year. We all thought it would be a couple weeks. “2 weeks, because the virus can appear between 2 and 14 days.” Remember #FlattenTheCurve?
The school held a graduation car parade for the seniors. I didn’t go because I was worried about what we didn’t know yet about the virus. I was afraid. And I now regret that I didn’t go. This week I thought about how it seems like last year’s seniors will walk into my classroom any day now. It feels like they never graduated.
I love teaching HS seniors because I get to be there for an important part of their lives. In 2019 I went to my first graduation as a teacher. I chaperoned my first prom as a teacher. None of us knew what was truly safe in March, April, May 2020.
I stayed home for their parade. I didn’t go for their outdoors graduation ceremony. I saw the pictures our school Twitter account posted. I checked the retweets and comments. I smiled and giggled and remembered class jokes.
A year later, we have only begun to grieve.