“Exhausting Day” As Teachers Arm Kids with Resources for School Closure
(Danielle Cover, First Grade Teacher, Ferndale Public Schools March 13, 2020)
Ferndale, MI -Today has been exhausting. Emotionally and physically exhausting. Since Governor Whitmer’s announcement broke late last night, there has been a sense of anxiety and unease among many Michigan families. In those early evening hours, I heard the concern for these families echoed by my colleagues across the state. And so…we started planning.
This morning Ferndale teachers came to school ready to work. While there was worry in our hearts for the safety and well-being of our students, we worked together efficiently and diligently to solve the problems that we could control. Because our students have limited technology skills that would allow them to benefit from online instruction, it was our mission to provide hard copy materials and resources to promote continued learning over the next few weeks.
Grade level teams divided and conquered. They planned and prepped. Gathered materials and made determinations of what would be most helpful to families during this challenging time. It was a whirlwind of activity with every staff member available leaning into the chaos to support whatever needed to be done.
And I can tell you with only a few hours’ notice and a deadline looming, we got it done.
I wish I had taken a picture of the kindergarten teachers, eight deep, spread across an ABC rug sorting and separating supplies and materials for 200 kindergartners. They organized packets and divided makers, glue sticks and pencils into envelopes. They ran back and forth to two copiers like they were in some kind of bizarre relay race just to be sure every student got the work.
I wish I’d taken a picture of the second grade teachers digging through their personal classroom libraries to send home just right books for their students. Or huddled around the computer finding materials to differentiate based on student need.
I wish I’d taken a picture of my own first grade team dividing and conquering to decide on curriculum, stuff each other’s envelopes and develop checklists to keep on track.
I also wish I could of taken a picture of all the teachers that stayed late to assist in organizing and handing out packets, addressing concerns and guiding families to additional resources.
And after all this madness, I wish I had a picture of each of the Ferndale parents and families that came in to collect the result of all that work. With only a few hours notice of their own, they showed up. Of the 515 students our school serves, only about 100 envelopes were left at the end of the day. Neighbors and families worked together to help each other out to make sure that as many students as possible received their resources and supplies.
After school officially closed at 6pm, staff members volunteered, of their own volition, to personally deliver many of the remaining envelopes to students’ homes so that they could receive all the materials that we couldn’t send in the mail.
And when I finally pulled out of the parking lot tonight after 6:30, our administrator was still there, working away at her desk with two computers on and a phone to her ear, answering questions that she could and making the hard decisions, even though I knew she had been sending emails and answering calls well after midnight last night.
Even though I am bone weary and uncertain of what the future will bring, all I can say is how proud I am of my Ferndale School family, both at Lower and throughout our district. While I did not see firsthand all the work going on today in the other buildings, I got some quick snapshots and updates to know that this effort was district-wide to do the best we could for our students with the information and resources that we had.
Is it perfect? No. But we are working to grow and change as our understanding grows and changes each day. While this experience is only one snippet of one day, I believe it is a true representation of what it means to have a teacher’s heart.
I know that across the state, many teachers and districts will have similar stories to share about how they rallied around their kids in the face of an unsettling global pandemic. But tonight, in our little corner of the world, I am proud of what we have accomplished and what we will continue to accomplish together. Tonight, I am proud to be a Ferndale Eagle.