Friday, May 22, 2020

So long, (remote) school

Despite the likely prospect of a summer devoid of beach trips, overnight hiking adventures, and the annual visits with cousins, my kids have never so eagerly anticipated the end of the school year. Sure, EVERY spring there is a sense of celebration and anticipation. No more pencils, no more (Chrome)books, and all that jazz. Hot days of sleeping in and endless freedom stretching to time’s horizon.

Dreaming of summer sunsets and getting to the beach
But my kids like school. They like their teachers. They like learning new things. They like hanging out with their friends at lunch time and recess. What they – very vocally and consistently – do NOT like is remote learning.

Before I go on, let me be clear that my children’s teachers have been fabulous through this whole remote school experiment. If I had to guess, I’d say the teachers like remote teaching as little as my children like remote learning. Nobody – at least nobody I know – wanted school to look like this for the last several weeks of the school year. 

Normally, this month is chockful of end-of-the-year events – field trips and projects, concerts and celebrations. Normally, when I look at the calendar in May, I have to deep breathe my way through an anxiety attack – so many places to be in so short a time. This year, though, I am glad I wrote everything on our family calendar in pencil, because most of it has been erased.

The last day of school, formerly scheduled for the middle of June, has been moved up two and a half weeks to May 29. To add that new date to the calendar, I had to erase the previously scheduled event of that day: the annual 5th and 6th grade field trip to Boston. This is one of the most highly and happily anticipated days of the year for kids in those classes, including my own 5th grader. It’s a day in the nearest big city, with lessons in history and science (and how to cross several lanes of traffic safely), topped off by dinner at Quincy Market.

This year it’s one of many spring traditions my kids – and all the others – have had to give up and get over. I can hardly fathom how disappointed this year’s 6th graders are to be missing out on so many of the rite-of-passage events they’ve anticipated since they were wee kindergarteners. And I feel an extra big pang of disappointment for this year’s seniors, who, of course, are missing out on a whole lot of pomp and circumstance – and facing, like all of us, plenty of uncertainty in whatever comes next.

In our home, rather than giddy excitement over a summer of plans – quality cousin time, a week at the Cape, camping and hiking and paddling with friends, soccer camp and dips in the pool – there’s instead a reserved relief at nearing completion of a necessary task. So long, remote learning. Here’s hoping that after whatever this summer holds, fall’s return to school is up close and in person.   

Original content published by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul. This essay appears as Meghan's May 7, 2020 Close to Home column in the Littleton Record. 

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