The theme of every new school year is one of comfort and connection—finding our place and connecting with those around us. I see and hear and feel the children doing just that around me throughout every day. But somehow I think it’s felt harder than ever for the adults this year to find that same sense of grounding and connection. Maybe it’s because we are in a moment of limbo. We are very much still in the midst of a pandemic, still dealing with the unknown, still finding ourselves having to trust in our instincts of what is best for ourselves and our families, both in terms of physical and emotional health, and also having to trust our community to put that same thought and care into shared decisions that affect us all. But there is also fatigue—we’ve done this already, we’ve been here before, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and now we have a desire to start returning to some semblance of the life outside of a pandemic. Finding a balance in ourselves and our environment during this limbo phase is somehow even more challenging, in a way, than heading into the unknown of our first pandemic year together was last fall.
But that theme of comfort and connection remains. The work happening in our classrooms right now is important, perhaps the most important of the entire year together; the children and teachers and families are connecting to each other and their environments, and in turn developing a sense of comfort and confidence in themselves and their community. And our children are the best reminders of how valuable it is to appreciate these moments of connection, even (especially) if they happen when we are feeling most unstable.
A wise educator once said to me, after spending so much time in school administration, juggling all of the big picture work of running a school, you’re just going to want to go back to the basics; spending time with the infants is the most satisfying place to be. And on one rainy day this past week, that’s just where I found myself. I was holding a baby by the window in the infant room as a thunderstorm struck outside. We stood together next to the open window (COVID safety first, even in poor weather!), and watched the rain fall. I watched her watching the rain, hearing the thunder, feeling the mist through the window, then I looked out and saw it myself. I had never watched raindrops fall at ground level before, and both she and I were mesmerized by the huge drops hitting the pavement. We stayed there for a long time, taking it all in. And I felt more comforted and connected in that moment than I had in a long time.
My own toddler has recently begun to talk, and in trying out his new verbal skills, he insists on pointing out and narrating everything he sees. Yes, it is cute and yes I want him to practice his vocabulary, but rarely do I have time to stop and acknowledge every single truck or dog or tree that we pass. I was in this sort of rushed state while struggling to get him out of the car as we arrived home one recent afternoon, when he began insistently pointing at the sky and shouting. Finally he touched my cheek and gently turned my head towards his, looked in my eyes and smiled, then pointed up at the sky, directing my gaze there. “Moon!” he said, proudly. And lo and behold there it was, a faint crescent moon. We stood and stared at it for a few minutes in silence, and then I heard some birds warbling from a tree beside us. He looked into my eyes again and said, “birds. Tweet tweet!” and smiled. I smiled back, and realized how grateful I was that he had slowed me down and made me notice.
Maybe it is the children that will keep us grounded during these times of uncertainty, because they will remind us to stop and notice. So I would encourage you to go back to the basics when things feel unstable; to watch the raindrops fall, to look up at the moon, to listen to the birds, and to try to see the world through your children’s eyes when you can, because this is actually what will keep us connected, to our environment, to each other, and to our own selves.