20 March 2021

Another Sort of New Year

In a year where everything has been different, it hasn't felt like there has been much to say. I shifted to working from home on March 18, 2020, so it has just been over a year. In one way, the days have felt very Groundhog Day'ish like. I wake up in the same place and go through a lot of same routines. I have occasionally had twinges of cabin fever. 

There is a large maple tree in the neighbour's yard. I can see it from my office window. I have watched the buds unfurl young leaves, those leaves provide summer shade, then turn colors and fall down in Autumn, and the bare branches all winter. There is nothing different about that, except that this year, I felt like I was part of that entire experience. Time has been on a completely different scale as I've watched a neighbour on his walks the past year and his corresponding weight loss...the nurse who lived across the street and would come home to be a single mom at 6:30 in the morning...and so many other things. I am oddly grateful for this opportunity to observe.

My networks have changed. Some of that is due to safety—a reduced number of personal contacts is necessary. I have one person in my "bubble," and everyone else I spend masked and socially distanced (outdoor) time with. But for those people who are like me, in that we work from home, don't go to restaurants or other indoor events, do delivery/curbside pickup of necessities, we have formed our own connections. There is a lot more communication and effort to do things for one another. I have greatly appreciated this community and I suspect it will last long after the pandemic subsides (ends?). I've also lost a lot of respect for many people I once thought better of, as this last year has laid so much of our world bare.

It effects haven't all been bad, even though we often tend to focus our attention there. In our schools, many of our traditionally underserved populations are thriving. Our youngest English Learners are making huge gains with reading, as the online lessons at home are things the whole family is doing to build English skills together. Staff who work with our students with the most significant disabilities are not getting hurt or burning out...and are seeing the largest gains in student learning ever...with the small class sizes each day. And more. This does not mean that there aren't students who are suffering, disengaged, or otherwise struggling. There are. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to school, and perhaps we've finally been forced to come to terms with that. It is sad to see how committed the white, cisgendered, heteronormative, able-bodied patriarchy is to returning to "normal" when I think there could be space for all of the variety of learning...if we want there to be.

I think that's the next big question, isn't it? What will the After look like...and how do we transition to that? I don't know when I'll be back in the office full-time, if ever. If it was my choice, I would like a hybrid work schedule of a little office time and a lot of work from home time. We are already getting a lot of requests from families of high school students this Spring for schedules that are a mix of coming to campus part-time and "attending" classes from home part-time. Will we make that permanent? If we want students on campus, how will we make those spaces where everyone wants to be? I suspect our families who have selected to keep their students remote have lots of ideas. Will we care enough to listen? Will we ever have a conversation about all of the loss people have endured?

So, as I start my second year of [waves hands at everything outside] this, it feels worthy of some reflection and maybe some predictions. I think we will likely still be in a hybrid model of schooling in the Fall. It's not looking like children under 16 (or possibly 12) will be eligible for a vaccine until early 2022. Unless we can manage to get all the adults vaccinated, there is still going to be a lot of spread, especially as variants arise. I suspect there will be a strong push to make school "normal," especially from our vocal white community, so the summer may bring changes. I think the summer might look kinda wild for adults who have been cooped up for a year and become fully vaccinated. *hot vaccinated singles in your area* Life is different, but that's okay...if you let it be. 

My last memory from the Before was going to brunch with a friend on March 14. The restaurant was not very full and we chose a table in the furthest corner. There has been an oddball snow shower that morning, so we wandered the quiet streets afterward and pondered the strangeness of this whole idea of a pandemic and quarantine. We met again last weekend. Neither of us has eaten in a restaurant since last year and I suspect it will still be some time (summer?) before we might try again. Instead, we get cups of coffee and enjoyed the rainy day. I don't know what I think we might be doing next March 14 (although it will be a Monday...so we'll probably be working), but I'm cautiously optimistic. Maybe that's the best we can hope for with any start to a new year in time.