Thursday, April 16, 2020

What Remains

Yesterday I had a Zoom book call with a group of friends. Educators and librarians, we are scattered across the country. One in Washington, two in Texas, one in Ohio, one in Pennsylvania, and me in Illinois. In our group we have amassed years of working with students, helping to nurture readers. In this call many confessed that they have been struggling to read during this pandemic. We talked about what school looks like during this time and how kids don’t know that their reading life will ebb and flow. I felt the talk of books wash over me and couldn’t help but compare this call to my Zoom calls that morning.

Every Wednesday I hold an optional check-in with my three classes. As I wrote about before, these are short calls, twenty minutes or less, where I simply check-in, make a few announcements, then ask if anyone has anything they want to share. I teach around twenty-five kids in each class, but the amount of kids that come each week varies from six to twelve per class. Sometimes I wonder if there is any benefit to holding these meetings, but a large part of each group asks me to continue them, so I do. 

Yesterday as I was reviewing the homework with my first group, I was also thinking through what school has become in my head. My students are often fascinated when I tell them that I can be teaching them while thinking through issues in my head at the same time. I tell them I’m certain this is a prerequisite skill of being a teacher, yet I digress. 

As I glanced over their faces, I thought of what we’ve lost. We can’t sit together, working through text as a group right now. I can’t shop my shelves with a student, browsing titles and book talking each one. We no longer gather together around a video, writing and discussing what it means, pushing our thinking. A lot of the community piece of our classroom is gone and, to be honest, that breaks my heart. 

And yet, yesterday reminded me that what we built together for twenty-seven weeks is not gone completely. In these three fifteen minute chats I had moments like:

A student showing a quick glimpse of his family’s greenhouse. I purchase my lettuce from his mom each week, so we all celebrated to see those beautiful green beds.

Several students cheering when I held up Ben and Erin Napier’s book, Make Something Good Today, as I shared my deep love for their show, Home Town. Apparently I’m not the only fan.

Cats, dogs, stuffed animals, Moms, Dads, and baby brothers joined our chat to say hi.

When I shared what I was reading and writing, I told them I just finished going over the edits from my publisher on the romance short story I had written during NaNoWriMo and it should be published this summer. An entire class applauded me. I teared up.

I told them I was surprised that so many had already gone to our Padlet to write their Age Poem for this week. Then I told them that I cried reading them and someone said, “Of course you did.” 
Finally, at the end of each call I always say, “Miss you guys, Love you.” I heard back so many, “Love you too, Mrs. S,” that I left each meeting in tears. At one point I just rested my head on my dining room table for a bit. It’s a lot.

So, in these times where I am without a classroom, when so much has been stripped away, I have to look at what remains and celebrate it. And what remains is love. I love these kids with all of my heart and am beyond gratified to see that so many of them feel the same. We’ve got this.