by Stephanie Prevatte
The recently-waxed hallways are gleaming. Small fingerprints and smudges have been covered with fresh paint. Bulletin boards and classrooms are arrayed with brightly colored paper and decorations. Gone are the cardboard desk barricades, covered water fountains, and signs reminding everyone to social distance. Soon the sound of children’s footsteps and voices will fill this space, and it will come alive again.
Students will arrive as early as 7:00 a.m. to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. They will walk into a new classroom with a new teacher and begin a new school year, a year that will hopefully be a return to “normalcy” and moving forward after a worldwide pandemic.
As a teacher in my 26th year in education, I have come to appreciate the beauty in rituals and routines as we move through the school year. There is a certain assurance in getting up at the same time every day (even though 5:00 a.m. comes awfully early!) and going to bed at the same time every night. There is comfort in establishing a structured classroom daily routine that students can rely on. Consistency and love for every student is important in creating a trusting and safe environment where kids are excited about learning, and also free to make mistakes.
The pandemic took many things away from us, but it did not remove the excitement and joy of students and teachers working together. It did not prevent students from making progress, even if that progress did not reach a targeted goal. The pandemic was unable to stop special rituals and routines of academic life, such as: pledging allegiance to the flag, moments of silence, morning announcements, carpool, lesson planning, assessing, grading, teaching, and meetings online and face-to-face. Classes still ate lunch together, usually outside instead of in a lunchroom. Students still played on the playground at recess, using hand sanitizer before and after. Some children thrived in online learning, and others faltered. In spite of everything, students still learned, laughed, and made progress.
As a new school year begins, may we remember and value the resilience of students and teachers, cherishing the things we previously took for granted—HUGS, assembly programs, pep rallies, festivals, fundraisers, faculty meetings (yes, even those), birthday celebrations, recitals, concerts, sports, and all of the routines, rituals, and events occurring between August and May.
“For this very reason, make every effort to
add to your faith goodness;
and to goodness, knowledge;
and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance;
and to perseverance, godliness;
and to godliness, mutual affection;
and to mutual affection, love”
(2 Peter: 5-7).