Young teen wearing a mask at school


School Is Working Out Better Than I Expected

Oct 14, 2020

Unassumed Road Ahead. That’s the sign I see on my daily nature walk — a walk that helps me escape the news, the confines of my home and the endless Zoom meetings. I see it every day as I round the bend into the more wild terrain of my trek. It perfectly sums up my feelings about this school year.

I’ve never dreaded a school year more. Not just because of the very real safety concerns, but frankly, I didn’t see the point of it all. I mean, how was it supposed to actually work? Can students learn while distancing? Is it possible for teachers to educate in a mask? And why go through the effort only to close the whole thing down again once the inevitable second wave hit? I kind of wished we could skip the whole thing.

But kids have to learn, parents need to work and life has to at least try to resume until this health crisis is under control. And so my family rolled the dice and decided to send our daughter back to school.

"I felt angry at the universe that she was being cheated out of this important developmental time in her life."

On my daughter’s first day back, I drove her to school and watched students being hustled to school with their parents buzzing around and crossing guards escorting everyone safely. I almost burst into tears in my car at the sight. I had grown so cynical about the situation that I had forgotten the simple joy of seeing kids go to school. I hadn’t realized how much I missed this very normal routine after so many months of disruption.

Kids are resilient — they adapt

It’s now been several weeks since my daughter began her first year of high school, which is a hybrid between in-person learning and online classes. And I have to admit, it's been going much better than I could have imagined.

Maybe it was the residual upheaval from the shutdown in March, but I didn’t expect my child to exactly blossom under these circumstances. This is her first year attending this new school, and she was beyond excited to start. Whenever she brought it up over the summer, I tried to temper her enthusiasm because I knew this wouldn’t be the experience she was anticipating. I felt angry at the universe that she was being cheated out of this important developmental time in her life.

COVID-19 has taken away so much from so many, but it has also made space for new things to thrive. Read Laura's POV about her daugher's new found passion.

But guess what? I completely underestimated the resilience of kids and their ability to take these changes in stride. My daughter wasn’t going to let COVID-19 totally ruin Grade 9, and so far, she is loving school. The fact that she only gets to go every other day makes it all the more special. I’ve never had to drag her out of bed in the morning or hear her complain about her homework. She comes home after her half-day and excitedly tells me about the great things that happened — despite being masked and remaining six feet from her new peers.

During her first week back, she went to visit her younger cousin, who had just started at my daughter’s old elementary school. At lunchtime, she walked over to wave hello and found her confined with her cohort of peers to a painted circle on the field. What sounded like a scene from a dystopian movie to me was a special moment between two kids who were just happy to be back at school. 

I wish life was normal and that kids could go to school full-time, feel safe, hug their friends, do sports, join clubs, go to dances and do all the things that we adults took for granted when we were kids. That isn’t happening now, so I’ll take a lesson from these tenacious students and appreciate what we can do and not dwell on what is lost.

There are interesting twists and turns and even some bumps when travelling on an unassumed road. All any of us can do is walk where the road takes us. And enjoy the ride.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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