One Year Later

During my plan time at school today, my co-teachers and I worked on our lesson plans for next week. We were trying to remember how we taught a certain reading concept, and my partner went to get her lesson plans from last year…only to realize, they didn’t exist. Last April, we were homebound, piecing together lessons that would engage our kindergarteners over Zoom, while simultaneously LEARNING how to even use Zoom. Seems like a lifetime ago, right?

One year ago, schools nationwide shut down, and parents were forced to work from home while helping their children attend school virtually. Every home with WiFi was put to the ultimate test — was there enough bandwidth for multiple devices to be on Zoom at the same time? (Not to mention the kids without internet access, bandwidth doesn’t matter when you have none or only have access to a spotty connection.) One year later, schools nationwide are finally allowing students back in the building. Desks are adequately spaced, hand sanitizer is at the ready, and back to school is anything but ordinary. Every school is put to the ultimate test — are there enough safety protocols in place to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak?

One year ago, I was using a makeshift mask, made out of a bandana and hair ties, as recommended by the Surgeon General of the United States. I found a forgotten box of disposable masks in the back of a drawer in my bathroom. Surely those will get us through this pandemic? One year later, I own no fewer than 40 cloth masks. They are washed and hung to dry like fine linens. They have their own bin in our entryway. I don’t see them being packed away anytime soon.

One year ago, I was filling a Pinterest board with in-home activities for my kids, in-home workouts for my husband and I, and in-home lesson plans for my students. I was making daily schedules that reflected everyone’s Zoom time, lunchtime, makeshift P.E.time, silent reading time. One year later, my Pinterest boards have articles about Covid fatigue, Covid symptoms, vaccine comparisons, and what is safe during a pandemic. Our daily schedule includes whether or not my middle-schooler is in-person or at home, whose house he is studying at if he’s home, and who is picking him up from school if he’s in-person.

One year ago, the pictures on my phone are of Zoom happy hours with friends, my kids studying in our backyard, our small Easter celebration, memes about Clorox wipes and social distancing, and our cat Jake. One year later, the pictures on my phone are of socially distant driveway/patio gatherings, my kids on the first day of in-person school, memes about COVID fatigue, and our cat Jake. He’s pretty cute, pandemic or no pandemic.

One year ago, I wrote a microblog about me needing to take time to cry after struggling with my first day of virtual school during the lockdown. So, also found on my phone, are screenshots of the comments people left me about that post. I needed the reassurance that it was okay to NOT be okay. One year later, I’m writing about what is different now. But one thing that is the same is that we all need validation that life in this pandemic has been, and still is, hard! Things are opening up. People are being vaccinated. But we are still in the middle of this crazy, and the light at the end of the tunnel is still faint. It is still OK to NOT be OK.

But one year ago, we had to adapt. We had to make do. We had to change all the things. We had to be resilient. We kept thinking that surely this will end soon. One year later, we are still adapting. We are still changing all the things. We are resilient. And surely, this will end soon. Right?

Jen was born and raised in Overland Park. After going to Indiana University for college, then living in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, she grew exhausted of circling for a parking spot and headed back home to be near family. She and her husband Matt are parents to a 10 year-old boy and a 8 year-old girl. Jen teaches kindergarten and her husband teaches high school, so they wonder how they’ll relate to their kids during the middle school years. She spends her free time cheering on the Chiefs, Royals, and Hoosiers, hanging out with family, laughing with her teacher friends, and fostering a love/hate relationship with boxing. She also loves traveling, Target, coffee, wine, sunflowers and all things pop culture.