Good afternoon and welcome to the first non- Covid column in ages. I trust you’re in good spirits. I hope you’re social distancing. I pray conspiracy theories haven’t overtaken your mind. I expect you’ve graduated from the bandana “stick ‘em up” look to the “random quilt fabric” homemade mask look. Lemme just say I know it hasn’t been easy, and I’m darn proud of us both for hanging in there. Enough about that. We’ve had some downright awesome goings on in our neck of the burbs! After 18 months of construction and a year of tiny house living, renovations on our 110 year old bungalow FI- NALLY came to an end. As I’m writing this piece, I am covered in bruises. I have more knots in my neck and shoulders than a sailor trying to pass a figure 8 tying exam. One of my hips has a hitch in its getalong. Also, I am painfully happy and incredibly blessed. The last month, in particular, was rough. Turns out, subcontractors don’t like to stay 6 feet away from anything. Nevertheless, we are in & the process of unpacking has begun. Boy am I finding surprise after surprise. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about today. I have mental conversations with my late daughter daily. Sometimes, she even talks back. This week, she’s a chatty Cathy.
In this climate of uncertainty that is becoming our new sense of normal, I have found myself increasingly hopeful we will emerge a better, cohesive more caring America; especially as it relates to education. I have seen so many creative approaches to teaching children, some of these methods should remain long after COVID19 is a distant memory. This predicament has forced us to look at education, health and life differently and with, hopefully, a new appreciation for each.
The abrupt end to the school year (in many places) has thrown teachers, parents and students into a tizzy. If students remain out until Fall, many will have been out of school 5-6 months. That is a long time out of the instruction and structure of a classroom. What I am hoping emerges from this impromptu time out of school are creative alternatives. One such alternative is Safari Small Schools in Canton, Texas.
Back in the 50’s, when my mom was growing up in Seagoville, our country cousin across the Trinity River, and before her family’s move to N Kaufman Street – when they still lived in the old frame house on Watson, the one that’s now the site of a church, she contracted Epidemic Parotitus, the Mumps. My grandmother was absolutely beside herself. Mumps killed off 400-500 children a year in its pre-vax heyday, back when the country wasn’t as densely populated as it is today. My mom has a few select memories from this time. She remembers a scarf around her face that ran under her chin and was tied tightly above her forehead. She recalls a parade of wannabe doctor aunts and suggestions of all sorts of poultices and homemade compounds designed to “draw the poison from the child’s face”. This was one of Mom’s back pocket stories when I was young. When she would tell it to me, I would inevitably imagine the witch’s council from the TV show Bewitched. Six year old me wondered if Aunt Floye was the same as Aunt Clara, or who was the Endora of the group, Aunt Opal or Aunt Jewel? Did the doctor in her story, the one who made the house calls & administered the eye of newt, look like Dr. Bombay? High school me, with my newfound love of the classics, saw the aunts as the 3 sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was kind of spooky, any way you cut it. Spoiler alert, Mom survived with her hearing intact. Crisis averted.
The arrival of COVID 19 has created a new normal in education across the nation. While there is much uncertainty about how to support student learning while trying to keep the public well, there are certainly things we all can do to take care of ourselves and to support our children’s learning. But before we do any of that we must take time to adjust to this new, scary reality. We need to take the information available to us and use it to bring calm and order to our lives.