My daily walk has become quite a highlight for me as it is one activity that I can safely leave the house to enjoy. The other day, I rounded the corner and caught sight of the spirit rock that is part of the landscape of our neighborhood high school. The sight actually caused me to catch my breath as its latest layer of paint is in reference to COVID-19.
Don't get me wrong, the reference to the refreshing Mexican brew is not lost on me, but the idea that the evil monster that is this pandemic should take over as the focus of the school community is heartbreaking. That rock is supposed to be highlighting all of the aspirations and achievements of the students, not the culprit that pillaged their school year.
Then it occurred to me. That virus, whether it has ever physically existed in the building or not, is a palpable presence calling attention to itself, much like a disruptive student in the classroom. As a former teacher, I have had many experiences with these types of students. The "corona student" is the one who absolutely must be the center of attention, even if that means the rest of the class is miserable. We can all remember that "corona student" or maybe we were the "corona student." The one who keeps everyone else in for recess... The one who causes silent lunch periods... The one who prevents the class from getting to go outside on the first warm day of spring... The one who requires social distancing... The one who prevents hanging out with friends... The one who shut down the restaurants and movie theaters... The one who ended all sporting events... The one who cancelled the spring musical... The one who ruined prom... The one who prevented any study abroad or mission trips... The one who interfered with graduation... The one who prevented college visits... The one who placed an internet connection between the teacher and student... The one who put our families in financial strife... The one who put first responders and health care workers in harms way... The one who put fear in our hearts and tears of disappointment in our eyes. That is the "corona student" and it is the most REAL part of the 2019-2020 school year.
So, it is here. Now what?
Well, like any disruptive student, you find a way to make the best of it, and even generate something positive. I must admit that most of the disruptive students I have encountered have held a special place in my heart. There is always an underlying reason for a behavior. Once we could establish a team approach, we could make progress and work toward a common goal.
Hmmmm..... isn't that what we are doing here, in Ohio? We are experiencing a team approach of epic proportions, one that is a matter of life or death for many. We are being asked to make sacrifices for a greater good. We are shifting our focus from a self-centered, intrinsic view to one of community. We are practicing empathy and appreciating our interconnectedness like we have never done before. Could this disruptive "corona student" be teaching us some lessons that our students may have never fully grasped within the confines of a school setting?
As I look so often at the portraits of my amazing seniors in the class of 2020, I feel sadness for them. I feel sadness because my thoughts immediately go to all that they are missing as their coveted senior year has been so rudely interrupted. But then I look deeper and I let my memory take me back to the time I got to spend with them during their Senior Portrait Experiences. Each one touched me and gave me such hope for the future. These are brilliant, talented, caring, motivated, innovative, and resilient individuals. They are not going to let this experience scar them. They are going to take its lessons and employ them to create a world that is kinder, more sustainable, healthier, more prepared, and collaborative. They will forever be marked with this pandemic, but hopefully in a constructive manner that allows them to more fully discern their priorities and beliefs. This doesn't have to have a tragic ending. There can be a silver lining, and if ever there has been a group of individuals up for the task, it is most certainly the seniors in the class of 2020.
I ask you to please keep these deserving seniors in your thoughts and prayers as they attempt to navigate a very unusual transition from high school into their next endeavors. Seniors, remember that we are all cheering for you and will not forget your sacrifices. You make us proud.
Love and Smiles,