When thinking about going back to school, I think of autumn’s cool air and leaves turning brilliant colors of orange and red. Not the heat of May and June. However, as a pandemic hit the world in March 2020, last fall is a blurred memory. My only clear recollection is how we scrambled to reimagine what teaching would be, and how we would reach children, so they didn’t feel isolated and alone. Academic learning seemed to go by the wayside while simply trying to learn how to live again. How to stay humanly connected though we were far apart.
Communities were like desolate tourist towns in winter, where you do your best to embrace the storms while you await spring, and anticipate the windows to reveal themselves from their winter boards, and signs to read “Open for Business.” This winter, held no assurance. Though spring was sure to come, it was not sure the boards would come off or if “Welcome” signs would post. The hustle and bustle of life on the streets and school bells ringing again was a mystery to yet unfold. People. Friends. Family. Colleagues. Life with one another. A hug, a touch, a smile. Normalcy wiped away as we hunkered down at home and one’s social life ceased to exist. Home took on a new meaning. No more the sanctuary traveled to after a long day working, but a combination of work, play, rest and health. I couldn’t help, but think of what it was to live in the days when your nearest neighbor was miles away and home was the place where all life flowed.
Normalcy. Who knew that word would have to be redefined in a world being played out like a science fiction movie. We all had to ask ourselves, “What role do I want to play?”
It’s been over a year now. Vaccines have been developed at a speed previously unknown. We know masks work. We stagger work days with fellow employees to be in the office. A new common phrase: The Hybrid Model. We’re learning how to live again. We are navigating the storm as we get hit once again. But, we rise, and take the step outside our door to try again.
Jayne Vitale, Director, Education and Youth Programs
As we prepared our first school visit since March 2020, we experienced the full spectrum of emotions at once: excitement, relief, hope, trepidation, curiosity. Will the car start after sitting for almost a year!
We are thrilled to travel to these students who are suffering from anxiety, struggling with the unknown and fearful to go back to school. We travel to give them a bit of respite and hope. We travel to share in their experience. To provide a safety net, and a bit of normalcy with rescue pups. To create a simple circle where they can talk about their feelings, and listen to others who share the same experience. They learn they are not alone. Together, in sharing stories, they discover commonality.
I am continually gob-smacked at the profoundness a puppy brings to a building when we visit a school or library. We expect that the students will be happy and excited to see our rescued Mutt-i-grees. What is a continued surprise is the excitement felt through the entire building…It brings not only joy, but hope. That longed for human connection we took for granted.
The visits are as wonderful for us, as it is for the school. They’re at the door waiting to greet each time. I will never ever forget. It is a picture forever instilled in my brain. As we walked through the door shouts of glee and tears of relief filled the room. Happiness. This pandemic has not only taught us how to create, but has reminded us of how important each and every person that touches our lives is significant. Impactful.
This is a baby step of many more to come down this untraveled path. We are happy we are not going it alone. We have you. You have us. We are together. We will hold each other up for health, happiness and success. We are back!