**I wrote this piece on Saturday, September 12th at a Long Island Writing Workshop I facilitated on "Writing the Moments."
Yesterday, the ice cream truck came back to the Wantagh Elementary School. The ice cream truck was a fixture of the end of the school day for so long. Kids would be scampering around the field, swinging on the swings, sliding down the slides, and there he would be- parked out front. Now, the first Friday of the first week back at school, I stood on the line, facing the school, seeing students and parents milling about on the lawn. Kids laughing. Chasing each other while still wearing masks. The school felt alive again. For so many months, it stood silent and alone. Schools are meant to be full of laughter and chatter and movement and children. For so long, it was quiet and barren.
I believe students need school. I believe they need other grown-ups, besides their families, who know them and invest in them. They need interaction and a community. Children weren’t meant to be so isolated.
Without school, my own family struggled. Bedtime was gone. Mornings rolled into ipad time. Sedentary couch sitting. I struggled to get my lessons online for my 26 third graders while still being mom to my two children at home. Worlds colliding and lines blurring between the professional and the personal. I moved so much less. I longed for my drive to work, to message friends, to listen to podcasts. To dress in professional clothes. To be in my classroom. The days were full of Google Meets and texts with my grade level team and messages from parents. My own children did not want to do their online school work. We were endlessly home. How could you complain with the first responders were out there? When the doctors and nurses were working around the clock? When so many in our community were sick or dying?
But there was so much loss. There was the loss of routine. The loss of normalcy. The loss of having school be the constant- the thing you could always count on to happen. Suddenly school the way we knew it was gone. March 13th was the last day I taught in the time before Covid 19. Will there ever be a time where I will teach without a mask? Without a sneeze guard? Without virtual open school nights? Will children ever gather by my rocking chair again? These questions are painful to consider. The thought of it never going back is too hard to fathom.
9/11 was a reminder of how life can forever change in a moment. How the whole world can change and not go back to what was. 9/11 happened on my fifth day of teaching. Now, 19 years later, I am not a new teacher anymore, but facing another time in the classroom where life has changed and isn’t going back to what was.
I want my students to be adaptable and resilient. Lord knows we need to be. We don’t know what is coming round the corner. How can we survive and thrive in such uncertainty? My grandfather, who died 21 years ago today, used to always say “Don’t look back.” He said it so often. He was very wise. So, I keep my eyes forward and keep going.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski