When a teacher plans a lesson, she tries to build an “anticipatory set.” This means helping students to access background knowledge, providing an overview of what will be learned and hopefully building some excitement. It’s sort of like the “pre-show” before the show.
With only a few weeks until school begins, I’m prancing around in my personal anticipatory set. Fractions swim through my head as I’m washing dishes. A snippet of a good idea will arrive, and I’ll rush to my computer to save the idea. Before bed I read children’s books, placing sticky notes on pages that will create cliff-hangers. I can hear my future students groan — “You can’t stop there! What happens next?”
I don’t know my children, but I’m thinking about them all the time. I’ll teach them socially-distanced, noncompetitive games. I’ll pre-record videos so I can sing songs. Maybe they’ll talk me into buying a class gecko.
In other moments, I’m feeling woefully unprepared.
Then Melissa sent me a text message.
Spiral notebooks were finally on sale for 25 cents. I rushed to the big-box office supply store. The purchase limit is 30 notebooks. I was wearing a mask so the clerk won’t recognize me when I return for more. I must have been giddy because I decided to buy each of my future students a 50-cent box of crayons. These are needed. We can no longer share school supplies.
Of course, it’s more fun to dream about triumphant classroom moments than to wonder about the uncertainty of classrooms under threat of COVID-19. My school plans to begin with in-class instruction, with the understanding that things may change quickly. I will continue to dream. I will continue to plan. Above all, I will simply hope for the best.
“Adults are just outdated children.” – Dr. Seuss
Thinking about my future students helps distract me from the fact that I’m mourning the loss of my parent’s retirement fun.
Life has many cycles. My parents spent many years in their youth ensuring all of my basic needs were met. I’m hoping they live a long, long time and I will be able to return the favor.
In my teens, I was eager to put some footsteps between my life and my childhood home. I traveled, and I did not invite my parents.
In my 20s, when I visited my folks I piled all my dirty laundry into my car so I could wash my clothes.
In my 30s, my parents complained I did not visit often enough — and even said I could have as much quality time with their washing machine as I needed.
Now I just wish I could give them a hug.
When my parents both retired, they started off on their own adventures. For years, Dad and Lynda traveled to bodies of water where Dad could scuba dive. Mom and Steve prefer to pack up the RV and dip their feet in a lake.
I have watched endless slideshows, with commentary, as they rehashed visits to island nations or classic car shows.
Now my parents are grounded. They watch movies on their huge televisions, and Dad watches too much news. It’s a big day when the Schwan’s deliveryman sets the box of ice cream on the front porch.
The pandemic cuts slices through all of our lives, through all generations. Watching my parents lose months (and who knows, a year?) of well-deserved fun really makes me mad.
I want the best for them — to travel, to explore, to uncover the depths of their unfettered potential, to share with others, to add lines to their crow’s feet and to sing songs while driving down some dusty highway.
Instead, they are wasting their youth.
My stepmother has pre-existing respiratory problems and is resigned to the fact that she may not leave her yard until epidemiologists announce a vaccine.
When I visit my mother, we have a “safety talk.” Where have I been? Who have I been with? Did I hug anyone? Were our mouths and noses covered?
Even after full disclosure, we sit on Mom’s back porch, six feet away.
I’m excited to meet my new class of students. Yet, once school begins, I’ll see my parents more often via Zoom conferences than on the back porch eating Schwan’s ice cream.
Once upon a time, Mom was making plans for her next adventures. Now she sits at home sewing masks.