Posts tagged ‘Being Dad’

Starting a Strange School Year

Yesterday I was sitting on some bleachers with my daughter, watching a few people playing games on a wide, mostly empty field. Two friends kicked a soccer ball, a girl practiced her softball pitching, half a dozen boys threw a football. In the adjacent play field, my son was part of a group of kids cobbled together into two teams, just enough to have a scrimmage. All around us were isolated activities of a few but nothing representing the big events that normally happen at these fields.

Typically the last day of Summer Break does not look so bleak. Only the familiar chill was in the air, the scent of a waning warm season that flew by with little to remember save for many days of isolation and questions about the future. A global pandemic has changed how we manage school this new year. Districts have to adjust to state mandates and keep our kids safe while continuing to provide education. Based on the number of emails about online programs and schedules I have received over the past two weeks, it is clear they have put in a lot of work to make this school year happen.

Now the first day is upon us and it is nothing like we have experienced. There is no waking up too early, no rush to get all of the supplies together, no quick pictures in front of the house before they ruin their hair, no freeway traffic, no buses, no lunch boxes, no chaos in the sunny playground waiting for that first day to begin. I don’t get to spend my work day wondering how it’s all going for them. My biggest challenge is providing a bit of tech support before the start of the first online class. It’s the same feeling as yesterday at the bleachers. I’m watching what looks like a bit of school, but it’s not enough to feel like the real thing.

My usual act at the start of every September is to write a letter to each of my children, summarizing the break time and wishing them well as they go off to a new adventure in the next grade. But there was no big family vacation, few visits with friends, none of our summertime traditions like baseball games and playing in the park. It has been an odd Summer with me working from home and the two of them trying to stay occupied. Even so, I can write a few lines and keep the tradition going.

*******

To My Darling Daughter on Your First Day of Sixth Grade:

I am sorry you don’t get to experience that terrifying first day of middle school. Until that happens I don’t think you will fully understand how different middle school is from elementary. There is the rushing through an unfamiliar building to find your next class, forgetting the combination to your locker, forgetting the location of your locker, and seeing so many new faces. Without being at the school each weekday you don’t get the social experience, and middle school is as much about what happens between classes as anything else during the day. You learn to manage your time on your own, find new groups of friends, and see the cliques begin to form. Now you return to being at the bottom of the school grades, a ‘sixlet’ as your cousin called it. For that part of it, you might be grateful to be spending your first year at home.

I can tell you are having a hard time with this version of school because you are a very social person. You want to join clubs and school activities, be a part of something with others. All of that will have to wait and waiting is not your strong suit.

To My Sweet Boy on Your First Day of Third Grade:

This is the first year you will be attending a school without your sister. You don’t fully understand that yet because she is still within earshot of you while you are “attending” your online classes. The only way you will be able to tell a difference is you won’t have the same teachers to talk about. You still get to share lunch time and what passes for recess at home. Please take advantage of that.

I know your big challenge will be paying attention and focusing on schoolwork. In past grades you have become easily bored with the work because you absorbed it all so quickly. I have no doubt with this kind of schooling that distractions will abound especially when your beloved kitties are at your feet during another easy math class.

Online We Go

There isn’t much more to say to the both of you other than I wish you luck as we try to work with this new way of schooling. Online learning is a lot to ask of kids your age but if you take it seriously enough I think you will find real value in the lessons. One positive in all of this is we get to share our lunch time every school day you are here. I am glad we get to see each other as much as we do despite your multiple interruptions of my meetings. We will get through the year and eventually you will be back among friends. Right now it’s all as weird and disjointed as this essay.

Now let’s sign on together and get this strange school year started. No matter what happens, remember that I love you more than Everything.

September 1, 2020 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment

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