“It takes a village to raise a child,” is a proverb that may be lived out even more in the school year that is on the horizon – “the new, new normal.”
The English language is built upon a category of sounds called vowels: A, E, I, O, U. Back in elementary school, we were all taught common letter-sound relationships often referred to as “phonics.” Our phonics instruction served as the stepping stone to the early reading skill of decoding. As we practiced with vowels and added their friends (the consonants), decoding skills were enhanced which eventually helped us to focus on comprehending text and drawing meaning.
Interestingly enough, the word vowel comes from the Latin vox, meaning “voice.” The last 18 months have been characterized with a stream of voices responding to the pandemic, not always in perfect harmony and ever-changing. Elected officials, scientific experts, and medical front-line workers were some of the voices we first heard at the beginning of the pandemic back in March 2020. Initially, everyone yearned for some understanding of the virus as our lives drastically changed.
THE NEW, NEW NORMAL
A major transformation took place. How we did things, how we worked, how we functioned, basically how we lived was radically changed. Schools were at the forefront of the changes. Covid-19 forced a shutdown of school buildings in the spring of 2020. Everyone experienced the historic upheaval in schooling. Teachers scrambled to learn innovative ways to use technology while parents scrambled to set up digital classrooms in the home. Students remained resilient for the most part. Virtual learning marked the first months of the pandemic. The summer of 2020 approached giving parents and educators a much needed break; yet, questions about the following year only intensified.
The pandemic continued to rage on as the summer of 2020 came to an end. Voices echoed words in response to the pandemic such as the following: hybrid, distance learning, masks, vaccines, face shields, social distancing, and super spreader. Schools considered many factors and decided to offer parents options, namely, in-person instruction, virtual learning, or hybrid (a combination of in-person and virtual). Options in light of a pandemic can provoke a host of emotions.
Eighteen months later, we approach a new school year – aptly called “the new, new normal.” Our emotions race like a roller coaster with lows and highs connected to the vowels A, E, I, O, U learned back in our elementary school years.
A for Anxiety
Everyone has uttered the A word at least once or twice over the last 18 months. We are human and it is only normal to feel the anxiety that is stirred when fear gets aroused. Even if fully vaccinated, we still wonder will I or a close family member get Covid. While the vaccine has brought so much relief, it isn’t a guarantee that one will not contract Covid. As we enter a new school year, the Delta variant enters the equation along with children under 12 not being vaccinated, as yet. We continue to live with the anxiety that Covid has stirred and search out ways to manage it with healthy coping mechanisms – a walk on a beautiful day or a talk with a trusted friend.
E for Excitement
Almost everyone remembers that wonderful sense of excitement at the beginning of a new school year. Buying fancy gel pens, picking out the coolest backpack, and shopping for that first day of school outfit all fuel that special excitement marking the beginning of a school year. Teachers feel that excitement, too. This year is a time to rekindle a sense of community in our schools and classrooms. A time to regain what was missing. Seeing the light in a child’s eye when they “get it” and hearing the curiosity that comes from questions posed are part of what makes teaching all worth it. Of course, parents welcome the start of this school year. Their children can be more involved in the athletics, activities, and events that bring healthy competition. Parents are their children’s best cheerleaders and without a doubt, they are looking forward to being on those sidelines this year.
I for Improvement
The vaccine is a huge leap for improving conditions as we continue to navigate the Covid terrain. Recently, the FDA granted full approval to Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. Where we were a year ago vs. where we are now all points to improvement.
O for Optimism
The pandemic has provided lessons for us to learn and ways to make our lives better. While we may hope to regain “normal,” some of us may have realized that the same “normal” of jam-packed schedules and the frenzy of activity may actually not be the normal we want. Over the last 18 months, we were forced to hit the PAUSE button and that pause provided moments of reflection. A sense of optimism comes out of the reflections. Looking forward and learning valuable lessons from the challenges of the past helps us to create better days.
U for Unknown
No denying it and no hiding it, there are still many unknowns. But what we have learnt is that providing children with experiences to grow and prosper is something we can all do together, because ultimately we are all teachers for each other. We are a collective of individual experiences and wisdom coming together to form community. We are the voices of the pandemic.