I cleaned my car last week. I took it to the local carwash to rinse away the pine pollen that had turned my brown CRV bright yellow. This happens every year, but not normally to this extent, because my car has been mostly sitting for months. Months, because we've been sheltering at home due to the Novel Coronavirus, everything is closed, the kids have been home from school since March. There's nowhere to go, really. So the car has sat and collected pollen, turning from brown to yellow as we shelter in place here in the woods.
I cleaned the inside of the car, too. It's like a time capsule. Sitting on my dash is a packet of papers from the parent meeting about my high school junior's tennis season. Sports physical information, a team roster, dates for future matches, our athletics code of conduct. Two days after the meeting, our schools closed. First for snow, then for the rest of the year due to COVID19. We knew, sitting at that meeting, that not getting a season was a possibility. There was optimism about resuming travel and matches in April, but my gut told me that was unlikely. I was watching the numbers in New York, feeling my anxiety spike, and trying to come to terms with the fact that we weren't controlling the spread anywhere and quietly panicking about what to do if the schools here didn't close, because I had been sick for six weeks from a respiratory virus brought home from school. I didn't want to deal with COVID coming home, too.
The first few weeks of our lockdown were frustrating. It just kept snowing, which meant the kids were inside much of the time. We had no clear idea what to do about school. What the plan was. School officials were talking about equity and access issues. The kids in upper grades all had school laptops, but some of them had left them at school. How did we get them? Do we clean out our lockers? Do we need our textbooks? What the hell is Zoom, anyway?
Our school district decided to make the first month of "distance learning" optional, which was confusing for students and parents alike. Do I make my child do their work? Will it affect their grades? What do I tell my child who watches their peers blow off school and hang out with their friends? It created a lot of friction in my house and a lot of resentment. Not only could they not see their friends, but we had to isolate from their grandma, too, because she was especially at risk.
Google Classroom quickly became the most hated part of my day. Parents aren't really encouraged to use or understand exactly what's being assigned in classrooms, and I found that especially true for Google Classroom. For junior high and high school, there were seven classes with different teachers. Some teachers were organized. Some were not. Some posted on Mondays. Some posted at midnight on Sunday. Some posted assignments at random days and times, with alerts going off constantly as new assignments went up or new announcements were added. Finding all of the assignments and due dates was confusing, even for me, and I consider myself relatively tech savvy and competent. How many families weren't blowing off assignments, but were just missing them because of technology challenges?
March turned into April, and it finally stopped snowing. The enormity of what my kids had lost started to sink in. First it was tennis season. Then it became the rest of the school year. My eldest's birthday, without his friends or extended family. Easter. End of school traditions. A trip to Washington, DC my son had won. College visits. Band concerts. Taking the SAT. School field trips. Music lessons. All of it just cancelled with nothing to replace it. Just sitting at home, watching the car built up pollen.
As we switched to required learning at the end of April, there was a shift in the way the district communicated with parents, and it wasn't for the better. The rules for Zoom meetings were ridiculous: don't wear hoodies, don't wear blankets, don't take Zoom calls in bed. Not caring if kids didn't have anywhere else to take those calls. Not caring if families had ran out of firewood and it was cold. One teacher even sent out a letter telling us to keep younger siblings quiet during her class and demanding parents get someone else to watch them if necessary. Homes became schools and suddenly our district felt like they could police those spaces as well. It made me incredibly angry, and I felt like schools had more important things to worry about than what students were wearing on Zoom calls. Like what was happening in those households where kids weren't able to Zoom at all?
The decision to just end school two weeks early at the end of May came quickly. We'd heard rumors of it, but it still caught us off guard. We were told it was for training of staff, but if I'm honest? I don't really understand closing early to train staff before summer break. I think it's because teachers, like the rest of us, were just so sick of this. Sick of watching only half of the class show up. Sick of pretending the kids were still being educated. Sick of acting like everything was fine. Everything isn't fine.
It felt appropriate to start "summer" by cleaning the car. Start a new season fresh. Get rid of the reminders of cancelled plans and try making new ones. There's a sign up list for fall sports at the high school, but I'm reluctant to sign my kid up. Do I set them up for disappointment when public health nixes our fall sports season, too? Do I sign them up, choosing optimism that we'll have kids on campus at all? I'd rather just *know* that we're not going back than to go through this constant cycle of optimism and disappointment. But that's the frustrating thing about this pandemic. You can either make plans and constantly cancel them or you can avoid plans, but feel stuck in a fog of waiting with no goals and nothing to really do. So I washed my car, even knowing that we're not going much of anywhere this summer and that the pine trees will continue dumping their yellow junk on it. Because we *could* go somewhere. We could need to drive to school again. I want to believe that's an option, eventually.