by Amy Haggerty
As this unique year continues on to autumn, the coronavirus still plays a part in daily activities. One of the most difficult challenges during the pandemic is getting children safely back to school.
In Stockbridge, the 2020-21 school year opened Aug. 24 with online learning from teachers for all students at home for two weeks. Students will return throughout September by grade to in-person learning for four days a week.
Jessica Martell, a Stockbridge High School English teacher who started her 14th year with the district this year, described the unusual day as “the weirdest first day of my life.”
“The last month, several months really, was about just making it to this point,” she said. “I never once took a moment to consider what it would feel like.”
Still, the experienced teacher felt the happiness and excitement of the upcoming year.
“As I saw both new and familiar faces stream into my google Meet, I had to consciously hold myself back from acting like the over-excited kid at the aquarium who taps on the glass like a maniac,” she said.
“I was incredibly happy to see their sleepy little grumpy faces at 8 a.m. this morning,” she continued. “I wanted to let them know I saw them. Each one of them. And the entire world of potential brimming in all of their bright little eyes.”
But that’s the difference between online and in-person, Martell said.
“Online allows safety and flexibility, but there is a lot less time for the hundreds of little intangible confidence boosters teachers throw around every day with targeted smiles and nods and thumbs up gestures,” the teacher said.
“Without the face time to do all that, the day just felt kind of… empty.”
Yet, the first day did have at least one unexpected surprise.
“On the flip side, one girl showed up early to our Meet so she could show me her cat. That doesn’t happen in person,” she said.
We are fortunate as a community to have such dedicated teachers in Stockbridge Community Schools. While, it sounds like there is a mixed bag of emotions beginning this school year, we can count on teachers to do their best and make it work for the safety of the students. We can all hope teachers and students thrive as they learn in this new way during this pandemic year!