One Year Later: Reflection
Updated: Apr 12
Sometimes I like to complete the essay that I assign my students. In this case, I assigned a reflection on the last year. I also wanted to write down some of my memories and put the hundreds of photos I took in one place. Here’s the video essay and the following is the text of the essay:
I just got back from the doctor who told me a story about how his daughter and her husband moved to Seattle in January of 2020 with her husband. He said they haven’t really left their apartment and are having a hard time meeting new friends. These stories are everywhere. Every single day, we’re talking about the pandemic with our neighbors and our friends. We watch the news, and then we turn it off for awhile.
In October of 2019, I listened to an episode of the podcast Science Vs, titled “PANDEMIC!!!” It was all about how unprepared we are for a pandemic and what could happen. I thought, that’s scary, but there’s no way … right? Then a few senior teachers at my high school started teaching Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s all about a pandemic. I started reading and I thought, that’s scary, but there’s no way … right?
At a faculty meeting in February, our principal mentioned that the company who ran our learning management system confirmed that we could have class online if we ever needed to teach from home. Pretty much everyone did one of those side glances where you tilt your head, look at the person next to you, raise your eyebrow, and say, what did she just say? Teach from home?
Then in March I got a text from one of my college friends that read “Italy just shut down.” I thought, what? What does that mean … shut down? Then I thought, I better get to the grocery store. I was standing, staring at the rows of shelves with no chicken and an elderly lady walked up next to me and did the same thing. She said, can you believe this? I said, this is so crazy, where’s the chicken? I laughed. Then she responded, I’m not worried, if I die, I’ve lived a pretty good life, and then she laughed. When I got into my car I thought, an elderly woman just told me that she’s ready to die.
On the last day of school on March 13th, at the end of 5th period, a few of my students were still packing up their things to leave. One of them looked at me and said … why do I feel like this is the last time we’re going to see each other? Everyone laughed and said no way, you’re crazy.
The next time my family needed groceries, my wife and I decided to drive by Wegmans. It was pouring rain and there was a long line of people standing outside wearing masks. We just laughed and said … nope! Over the last year we learned to laugh at terrifying things.
My wife and I have small children to worry about, so we decided early on to keep our family outings to walks around our neighborhood. We realized they closed a nearby golf course, so we had picnics there to pass the time.
Then we welcomed our son to the world. After we settled down into our room, I went to fill a pitcher of water. As I walked out the door, a nurse yelled at me and told me to get back in the room. I guess she hadn’t worked since they changed the policy about letting parents outside the room to get water or walk around. Later, I looked out a window in the hospital to see an ambulance pull up to a large tent in a parking lot. An EMS dressed like an astronaut got out. One of the nurses warned me not to walk a certain route in the hospital because a few COVID patients were in a certain hallway.
Before this past year, I’ve never had to think about the rising number of dead on a daily basis, either on the news, or in the stories you hear from friends and family. One guy on my soccer team said he knew nine people that died.
Literature often deals with how we’re all connected. Now we have a dark example of that truth, but we can also think about how, even though we’ve been away from each other for a year, we stayed connected. We found ways to see each other and ways to distract ourselves from the headlines by getting close with our families and picking up new habits. Time slowed down for a year. Instead of riding on a high-speed train, we pushed pause. It was stressful at first, but we breathed in, learned to adapt, and tried not to worry about the little things.
I had a few small projects in the spring of 2020 to kill time but last fall, I was so worried about the long winter, that I watched some YouTube videos and then built an outdoor fireplace. That fireplace will always be a monument, the fireplace of the pandemic.
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers