Back in the building

This week was crazy. Students and staff were back in the building. There were many emotions.

For one, seeing students for the first time in months caused some first-week-of-school jitters. There was a newness present throughout the building that was undeniable. Excitement and hope filled the space between us as I sat with students during their lunch and bantered. It was fun, but also awkward. I didn’t really know what to talk about with them given how synthetic our interactions have been. Some students expected me to instantly recognize them, although I’ve never seen them before. It’s odd feeling to be standing in front of someone with whom you’ve had daily interactions with online for months, whom you’ve showed parts of your apartment, family, and home life…yet whom you’ve never seen in the flesh.

Those jitters were mixed in with thankfulness as I reunited with colleagues. Almost every day Brother D and I went for a walk during our prep period for coffee and tea. I didn’t tell him, but I didn’t care much for the coffee or tea. I just wanted to share the sidewalk with him and listen.

Then there was the access to a whiteboard that made doing an example on Zoom so joyful. It made teaching and learning tangible again, things I could grab, hold, erase. I didn’t realize how much I missed getting marker smudges on my knuckles.

For the first time in my life, this week I was faced with the fact that I’ll be teaching math in a gym. With glistening floors and sports banners and locker rooms nearby, I was thrown for a loop. Interestingly, there is a whiteboard there that I used, which makes the experience even more bizarre. On multiple occasions I grabbed a basketball and made layups when a student gave a correct answer. That was a blast.

And speaking of the gym, this week also brought about pain. Physical pain. I enjoy playing basketball so I spent a few of my mornings before school throwing up some shots in the gym. Well, on Thursday, feeling high off of a week of being back in building, I did a wicked spin move in the lane and tweaked my back. I hobbled off the court. Ugh.

On top of all that, there were parent-teacher conferences. This was the cherry on top. When meeting to parents, I found myself reaching for moments that weren’t there. I think I was searching for meaning. I know my students’ experiences with me have been largely transactional, focused mainly on submitting assignments and me attaching a number to their work. But I tried to escape from this fact at conferences and found myself believing that this year has been more than that. Sadly, it hasn’t. Parents and their kids — my students — came and went hurriedly. I was left stranded, wanting more.

Come to think of it, I suppose many weeks over the last year have brought about roller-coasters of emotions that were similar to the one I rode on this week. Maybe this week wasn’t that crazy. Maybe I just decided to write it down.


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