“Tomorrow we don’t have school, because the teachers come to work. Monday when we come back, we have music and library.” This was my end-of-day announcement on March 12, 2020. Little did I know that was the last end-of-day announcement I would make to that class! We had a teacher in-service day the following day, and at the end of our in-service we listened to President Trump talk about this new coronavirus, and we found out we would not have school for two weeks because of this virus. We all know that the two weeks stretched into months, and school was cancelled for the rest of the year.
This year I have been very aware of how I announce things to my class – we will plan to do this tomorrow. It is Tuesday, so our schedule has PE. We will try to do _______________. Lord willing, we will _____________.
Lord willing… We are not assured of tomorrow—we know this from March 13, 2020. We never have been assured of tomorrow or tomorrow’s plans, but this has made me especially aware of it.
I have tried to be very careful with promises anyway – after a student accused, “You promised!” on something I was unable to fulfill. I try to say, “We’ll plan this…” “Hopefully we can …”
Children do need structure and a schedule, so I’m thinking how I can help my students learn to deal with unexpected events. We need to hold things loosely, as our administrator encouraged us last year. We’ve talked about promises and how God always keeps His promises, but sometimes people can’t or don’t. We discussed the meaning of “Lord willing.” We pray and notice answers to prayer and thank God. I try to make my classroom be a secure place, listening to the children’s concerns, praying with them and for them, reading and sharing scripture, discussing special verses, telling stories of God’s faithfulness, showing love and kindness for all. I don’t want to share my worries—they don’t need that burden. I try to keep current events discussions out of the classroom—yes, we can pray for these events, and might talk briefly about them, but we don’t need big discussions of them in first grade. I share reassurances from God’s Word and from my experiences.
One year we were scheduled to go to a greenhouse on our field trip and the manager had told me ahead of time that I would probably need to take the children around in the greenhouse as spring is so busy for him and he probably wouldn’t have time to give us a tour. That was okay—I love greenhouses and I went ahead of time and found many interesting things to share with the class. The day of the field trip was a very rainy day. When we got to the greenhouse, we found that they were not busy because of the rain, so the manager could give us a tour and he had time to let the children each pot a petunia for their moms for Mother’s Day. That was an unexpected treat on our rainy field trip, and we later talked about how the rain was disappointing because we couldn’t go to the park, but God worked out good from that and they got to have flowers for Mom! Sharing stories like this can help the students learn trust in God’s goodness.
One of my students commented last fall, “We don’t need to worry about covid, because God is in control!”
Now I see this topic again! Little did I know on February 17 when I left school, anticipating a snow day, that I would not be returning any more in February! Thanks to two snow days and a quarantine after a positive covid test, I have been home for a long time. Lord willing, I can return to school March 1. Again, I needed to hold things loosely.
I used to think, “Oh, I could ‘crawl in’ if I did get sick, and get things ready for a substitute if I needed to!” This time I could not do that—I didn’t feel like going in, and I was not allowed to go in. I learned some lessons from this experience.
- I should have had a day’s worth of already prepared sub plans. I could have a reading, math, and phonics lesson of a general nature that a substitute could use.
- I need to plan ahead and be prepared, preparing the classroom and lessons before I leave in the evening, and not thinking, “I can quickly pull this together in the morning.” I might not be there in the morning!
- I was thankful that I already had classroom procedures and behavior plans in place so my students could continue in their routines somewhat and I didn’t have to explain everything. This also enabled the children to help the substitute teachers. (One day they had four different teachers!)
- I need to accept help from others. Some teachers offered to do things for me and I did appreciate that. I also needed to ask some people to get materials out for me, or to get something ready for the next day.
- I need to give grace to myself, to my students, and to the substitute teachers. Maybe something doesn’t get done just how I would have done it but that’s okay.
- I may need to let some things go. Maybe some of the work pages accomplished their purpose in being completed, but I don’t need to grade them.
- I did have copies made ahead and that helped.
- I tried to plan some special things for the children to help them in the uncertainty of their teacher being sick and having several different substitutes.
CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt