We learned halfway through the day today that the schools in our supervisory union are closing early for the Thanksgiving holiday due to COVID and associated issues, including severe staffing shortages. After the kiddos were dismissed this afternoon, there won’t be classes again until Nov. 29 at the earliest.
Today was the 58th day of the school year.
The last time this happened, it was the 117th day of school. March 17, 2020. When I left school at the end of that day, I didn’t know it, but I was leaving behind a job I’d had for over six years and entering months and months of uncertainty, loss, and rebuilding.
There was a lot that wasn’t know on that day at the very end of winter. COVID-19 was still something mostly happening somewhere else. “Flattening the curve” was a concept that seemed reasonable and able to be understood by adults. And, of course, there was no vaccine.
Today, with winter a little over a month away, things have changed. COVID-19 is everywhere, it’s it’s here to stay. “Flattening the curve” became a punchline in the wake of baseless conspiracy theories, spineless national leadership, and a surge in willful ignorance. And, of course, we have a vaccine.
That day – a day in the middle of March – was a bad day.
We didn’t know how to broach the topic with students. The remainder of the school year felt rudderless. Rudders were built over the days ahead to steady the ship, constructed as staff and students tried to do their tempest-tossed work. As we left school, I tried to reassure my nervous client that we’d figure things out and make it all work. He looked at me blankly and said, “I think you’re lying.”
Today – a day in the middle of November – was a good day. Hard, but good.
My school has been doing a monthlong gratitude project, and today’s focus was being grateful for humor and jokes. We did that regardless of the tough situation. When it was time to talk with the kiddos about the plan, we had language for the conversation, and they responded with the sort of maturity and experience that makes your heart break. So young, and they’ve endured so much. As we left school, there was still that air of uncertainty, but also sparks of hope, knowing that we’re in a better place than we were 20 months ago.
I’m grateful for that.
I had a plan. And it nearly fell apart.
Part of my schtick with the students is saying ridiculous things about myself and then doing my absolute best to make those things true. Or at least as true as possible.
One day back in September, one of the kiddos was talking about her ballet class and her tutu. I made an offhanded joke about my tutu and how good I looked in it.
“You don’t have a tutu!”
“Boys don’t wear tutus!”
“You’d never wear a tutu!”
Of course, I had to prove them wrong on all three counts.
I told the kids that I’d wear a tutu on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break, and I declared that day Tutu Tuesday. I found a tutu with a turkey face on it, as well as yellow turkey feet slippers, and a pair of yellow sweatpants.
I’d show them …
Then the email came mid-morning. No more school after today until Nov. 29. Obviously word of Tutu Tuesday had not made it to the higher-ups. Sure, there’s a pandemic, but … Tutu Tuesday.
I texted my wife, asking her for that favor all wives dread: Please bring my tutu to school right away. And also my turkey slippers and yellow sweatpants.
She did. God bless her.
Not since Clark Kent first stepped into a phone booth and emerged as Superman has a transformation been so awe-inspiring. Mr. Ethan stepped into the faculty bathroom, but Turkey Man emerged!
Quite a few minds were blown today, and I’m grateful I was able to pull it off. Take that, COVID!
I really can’t describe this one. It’s one of those “If you know, you know” things.
The smell of cloves wafting from a warm oven.
It’s the best.