My room is packed and put away, my report cards are finished, and my curriculum is checked in. At the same time that I was turning off the classroom lights and turning in my key today, other schools in the country were opening back up and admitting students. I'll admit it: I cried. I cried for myself, cried for my Super Stars, and cried for the teachers and students stuck in horrible situations where going back to school while COVID19 remains just as dangerous and deadly is preferable to staying at home.
Because at home there might not be any food. Or at home, the only engagement from family members may be abusive or neglectful. Maybe there isn't a home at all.
As for the accommodations that reopening schools are making for students, especially in regard to kindergarten and other early childhood grades, I just want to cry some more. It doesn't matter if you space individual student desks and chairs six feet apart: young children seek connection, and they seek to interact with toys, materials, books, textures, nooks, crannies, scents, tastes, and one another. They don't just want hugs when they get hurt, they need them. They need them when they're scared, proud, unsure, and filled with joy. They explode with enthusiasm, anger, fear, relief, discovery, and acknowledgement, and it doesn't matter if there's a poster with rules on it or a sticker chart "rewarding" (shaming) them into compliance, or a reminder note, or the threat of a phonecall home put in place to "manage" them: NOTHING is going to change the fact that these dynamic, organic, spontaneous and constantly inquisitive learners will not be contained.
And if they decide that their masks itch, or are too tight, or feel gross after they open-mouth cough and sneeze into them leaving a soggy mess rubbing against their skin? How many extras will be sent to school in backpacks, or distributed by teachers? How about when students play with the masks or take them off while using the restroom, dropping them to the floor, or dangling them from their little fists as they grip the toilet seat and flusher? How "preventative" and "protective" will that be? Nosepickers and booger-eaters (just keeping it real, because it's important that none of us ignores all authentic aspects of childhood as we swift march ourselves toward "solutions" that make grownups feel good) aren't going to stop picking, eating, and wiping those germy morsels all over themselves, the furniture and other surfaces or objects just because they're wearing masks. And when those masks begin to chafe and hurt their faces, or families discover that their children are allergic to the fabric content of the masks and ties? How about the vomit? Good lord, the vomit.
Arranging desks six feet apart is a new classroom layout. It is not proof that the children who sit in them (or the teacher who will sit and stand elsewhere) will be safe. Requiring children to wear masks shows that we're attempting to reduce the spread of disease, but it doesn't prove that we're going to succeed, especially when we continue to make decisions while purposely refusing to consider how young children will, in fact, remain tactile young learners who simply aren't designed to leave things alone. And for those students who will remove their masks, refuse to wear them, or wear them ineffectively? Who will be blamed when those children become sick? How many long-term subs will be available to replace the teachers who become sick due to exposure from children or from the over-use of disinfectants? How many family members who remain at home will become ill from school children? And when parents return to work, only to become sick themselves? Their family goes into quarantine, including their schoolchildren, correct?
I'm no virologist, but I **know** kindergarteners. I **know** children. And I **know** adults. So do you... which is why reopening schools is an experiment, at best.
At worst, it'll cause more than just tears.