A Post-Pandemic Homecoming

A Post-Pandemic Homecoming, Smiling through our masks

Smiling through our masks

by Cathie Maglio

The school year started the same as it had since March 2020– working from home, supporting teachers from my schools remotely. The teachers sent me their class lists as always and I enrolled the students into the math and English software. Then I emailed back instructions for students to enroll in their classes. Same old online drill.

But that changed suddenly in mid-September. East Boston High School had added a 7th grade and those teachers were not familiar with our software. Everyone being fully vaccinated, I scheduled a visit to the school to meet and train the new teachers, just like before the pandemic. I was excited, and a little nervous. It had been a year and a half since I had set foot in a classroom and talked face to face with live teachers and students.

I got up at 5 AM, showered, dressed, gathered up my computer and everything else I needed, and was out the door at 6. I remembered that I have to leave this early to get a space in the school parking lot. I gunned the engine and was on my way to visit a school I had not stepped into since March 15, 2020! I remember that day because I bought a school sweatshirt on my way out. I was in the school so much I felt like part of the community and wanted that sweatshirt with the school logo to confirm my membership. Now it was September 2021 and I was heading back to the same school I had left on a Friday in March 2020. A very long weekend indeed!

Even though I knew that almost all students and staff were vaccinated and wearing masks, I planned to stay in one area of the building and not indulge my habit of roaming around visiting other teachers no matter how much I wanted to. This plan worked the first day. Then one of the teachers asked if I could administer the Accuplacer test to his classes. I caved instantly and we planned a day for it.

The day I went to administer the test my low-contact plan did not work so well. I was on the third floor. I just sneaked down the hall to say hello to two teachers I had worked with before. I had missed chatting with them while school was closed. It was just supposed to be a brief “Hi” but then there was a glitch with the computers and I had to go down to the second floor to find the tech person. I didn’t anticipate that teachers would see me in the corridor and come out of their rooms to say hello and tell me how good it was to see me again. I couldn’t help responding that it was good to see them as well! Even teachers I had not worked with hailed me in the corridors, telling me it was good to see me back. How could I not respond?

I have been back a few times since that first visit to train new teachers. I set up shop in my usual corner of the school library. It’s a quiet place to work between classes. I like seeing familiar faces there and chatting with Joe, the librarian. There are still other teachers I want to touch base with in the coming weeks. I feel comfortable in the school now. Whatever worries I had about being back in the building have blown away with the 5 AM mist.

I did not realize how much I missed being in schools and working with live teachers and students. It makes getting up before dawn and leaving the house in the early chill worth every yawn and shiver! Climbing up those worn granite stairs felt like a homecoming. You just don’t get the face-to-face warmth through email, text, and phone. Even with masks on, I know the teachers are smiling and happy to see me. Nothing can rival the good human feeling of being able to interact with people again.

The pandemic has made me appreciate many things I used to take for granted. I’m not taking anything for granted anymore.

Cathie Maglio is a JFYNetWorks learning specialist.

Other posts authored by Cathie can be found here.

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