Trying to Be Curious, Not Furious

This is our first week back after more than three weeks away from school. That time just happened to coincide with the serious omicron surge that is happening right now. For my third graders, this pandemic has been a significant percentage of their living memory. The majority of their lives that they remember have been lived in this time. I have to keep reminding myself of that and of what it might mean for at least some of them. Yesterday, one kiddo arrived teary, worried about a sister with a stuffy nose. We chatted briefly in the morning and the child shared worries about the older sister as well as worries about how they were supposed to go home that day. None of their concerns seemed huge to me but they clearly were for the child. Fortunately, a (fairly) normal school day seems to be have been a positive. The kiddo left at the end of the day, cheery, without any sign of the morning’s worries. Another kiddo seemed fine until the afternoon when they felt like throwing up and just seemed to feel awful. They went home but before leaving, I took their backpack down to them at the office. They were teary and worried their family would be upset with them. Again, their concerns seemed, to my adult thinking, unfounded. I reassured them of their family’s love for them and told them that they needed to let their body take care of getting better, that their family will definitely be wanting that for them too. I’ve been at this job long enough, spent enough years with kids between the ages of five and twelve, to recognize that kids’ brains and developmental stages mean they process differently than we adults do. Things that seem tiny to us, can seem huge to a kid. Yesterday that’s what I was thinking about my two kiddos. This morning, as I brushed my teeth, I was thinking more about these two. They’ve been with me all year (not a guarantee when you teach on a military post) and this behavior seemed out of character. As I continued rolling this around in my brain, it hit me that the ongoing stress of a pandemic could be the cause. These kiddos have lived with constant discussions of fear and anger around COVID. No matter how careful adults in their lives might be, and that varies greatly, they are hearing things and feeling the anxiety and/or anger of the adults around them. We, the adults in their lives, work hard to make sure that they are getting as ‘normal’ of a childhood experience as is possible right now. Is that what we should be doing? Are we adding confusion by acting, at least in some ways, that everything is as it’s always been? Would it be better if, as I’m sure some families have done, we addressed this pandemic more directly with kids? I don’t know. My own children were teenagers with this began and there was no question about discussing it with them. We didn’t have to decide what to tell them and what to keep quiet. I do know that kids, no matter whether they’re in school buildings or virtual, whether they regularly wear masks or don’t, whether they’ve directly known people who’ve been infected and sick or not, whether they themselves have had COVID or not, no matter any of these factors, kids are impacted by this ongoing pandemic. We can’t truly know, not yet at least, how it is impacting them or how it will impact them long term (academically, intellectually, socially, emotionally) but I am certain it is doing some harm. And I am equally confident that we, the adults in our children’s lives, are not always aware of that harm.

from Chad Davis’s flickr

Reminding myself of this is one of my goals. Remembering that my students are kids and kids whose lives have been severely disrupted for a lot of those lives. Title comes from this Edutopia piece.

One reply

  1. I went to an elementary school last year to test a kid for HiCap. We were alone in a room together and I tried making small talk with him during the breaks. I asked about his family and he said he had a grandmother in the area and he used to like doing puzzles at her house. But, he hadn’t gotten to do that over the previous months…because he didn’t want her to die of COVID. He was worried about accidentally infecting and killing her. It was such a heavy burden for a second grader. I can’t imagine what the long term effects will be…what sort of adults these children will become. I’m curious to see what world they create.

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