Just shy of one year since my kids have last seen the inside of a classroom, my kids will be returning to school next week.
Remote learning has been a struggle. From the early days of trying to establish a routine to changing techniques to keep my kids engaged, it has often felt like a losing battle. I kept telling myself that it won't be forever, but I have also spent more time crying on the phone to the teachers (and principal) than in all prior years of elementary school combined. The longer the year dragged on, the more it felt like a toll on our mental health.
It got worse in January when some kids returned to hybrid learning. I chose to keep my kids at home because I thought they would have more teacher interaction and that was my goal for them. Turns out, 100% remote kids had less teacher interaction. After a morning meeting with the teachers, they were left to their own devices until early afternoon. Work slipped even more. And Ger and I simply could not sit over their shoulders, so they found other things to do in the morning that did NOT involve school work.
I emailed the principal and begged her to let us switch to hybrid. She called me and said that while switching was not possible, there were plans in the works for additional kids to return to hybrid and asked that I wait for an announcement.
The email came from the school district that they were going to allow additional elementary school students to return. Not only that, but they were going to move from two mornings per week in the classroom to four. But the email also stated that if there were too many students that wanted to return, they may not have space. I signed up within minutes, electing an option that would even allow my kids to be assigned a different teacher if it meant returning.
The follow-up came a few days later: all 65 kids that had requested to return would be accommodated. Our school had even gotten creative and turned the LMC and lunchroom into makeshift classrooms so that they could bring back all 65.
I had held off on telling my kids that this was a possibility because I didn't want them to be disappointed if it didn't happen. Theo was excited. Quentin asked "Why do I have to go back to school? I like being at home." I told him that his enjoyment at home has been reflected in his schoolwork not getting done, so it was time to go back.
They'll have masks and procedures and only be in the classroom from 9:00 - 11:30 four days per week, but I'm hopeful that they can have a good end to the school year. We opted to keep them home on March 13, 2020, which was the same day that Illinois announced that schools would be closing. We saw the writing on the wall, though we never anticipated that it would be this long. And now, on March 9th, 2021, they will be going back.