Next Tuesday — after 29 weeks, or 148 days to be exact – we will have students on campus for regular coursework!
OK, so maybe “regular” is pushing it. Nothing about the last six months (or the coming six months) could fit within a reasonable definition of regular.
Let’s just say it will be a great to have students back on campus on a more regular basis. That’ll work.
In addition to feelings of relief and excitement, the next few weeks will also be a little uncertain as we adapt to new routines and refamiliarize ourselves with in-person learning (or some facsimile). As we’ve shared quite a bit about health and safety expectations recently, I won’t belabor the point here. Other than say: Be mindful that just because we are returning to school doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. We are learning to adapt to living in the world during a pandemic, and in doing so we must remain vigilant.
With that important reminder out of the way, what I really want to talk about is how we can embrace our new reality and manage the loss that we feel as the pandemic continues.
The restart of on-campus learning does not mean that things will spring back to normal anytime soon. Some traditions and experiences that we’ve come to associate with school in general (class bonding trips) and Cary Academy specifically (world language trips) have disappeared. Other traditions may be continued in some form but altered in such a way as to be unrecognizable. (Yes, the incoming 9th graders did sign the welcome books during small advisory orientation meetings, but this is traditionally done during a raucous opening convocation with the whole Upper School.)
However, the change in our routines does not in any way diminish the validity or power of new experiences and relationships. This can be hardest on us adults, who are maybe a bit more set in our ways and feel more acutely the loss of experiences we had wanted for our children. I felt this last spring when I took a middle-of-the-night-call to assist in evacuating my own college-age son from his study abroad experience in the Czech Republic. As winter turned into spring, all of us holed up in our house, I was pained for what he didn’t get to experience. But while I was stuck focusing on what I had wanted reality to be, he adapted much more quickly to the disappointment and moved on. He has his own memories and stories about his experiences – and, in his telling, rather dramatic evacuation – that are powerful and poignant.
When we look back on the pandemic, and the adjustments and sacrifices we have had to make, this will be a powerful moment in the lives of our children. It will be their moment. Unique. A test of their resilience and fortitude. They won’t remember what didn’t happen, but instead what did happen – how they laughed, cried, got bored, made a friend, got in fight with said friend, learned something new, missed a deadline, got embarrassed by their parents, had their dog loudly pass gas during a Zoom class meeting… You know, the stuff of life.
While we may layer on our hopes and dreams for our children, this is their only reality.
This is our reality, too.
And we are going to have a great year together.