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Five Thoughts on Returning to School

Philadelphia Inquirer photo

Sending students back to school in the midst of a pandemic presents an unparalleled challenge to educators, but it’s not impossible to overcome.


What happens every fall under normal circumstances–that is, the beginning of a new academic year in public schools across our country–has suddenly turned into one of the most challenging logistical feats educators have ever encountered.

Making matters worse, the ground keeps shifting under the schoolteachers, administrators, and local and state leaders who grapple with how to safely educate the millions of students normally under their care. COVID-19 is in a full rampage: multiple states are setting record-high infection rates, and national healthcare advisors warn of the consequences yet to come.

How, then, do we begin to explore the idea of teaching kids in a way that keeps everyone as safe as possible? Here are five things to keep in mind.

The Joy Amidst the Sorrow

What if it took a global pandemic to find work-life balance? And what does that mean when it’s over?


These days I wake up without an alarm, usually sometime around 7 a.m., often to the quiet chatter of our kids playing somewhere in the house. I lie in bed for a few minutes collecting my senses, looking outside at the emerging dawn, the tender, pregnant buds on every tree, the muted birdsong, quiet streets.

Within a few minutes, I remember: there’s a pandemic.

It’s a bit like grieving a death, really. You wake up, and for a few precious moments your brain pulses about, hopscotching from one synapse to the next until suddenly it lands upon the bruised one, the lightning-trigger that drops your stomach. Each morning is a little easier than the previous one. That’s what endurance does for you. How quick the new normal.

From Behind Our Silver Screens

The world needs us to be good people right now. Can we rise to the occasion?


Sunday mornings, I usually get a short chirp from my phone that’s different from all the rest–it’s my weekly pop-up that tells me how much time I’ve spent with my head down, looking at its tiny screen. I quietly celebrate the weeks when Apple tells me I’ve used its miracle box less than the week before. In the wake of a pandemic and our national pleas for quarantine, I’m guessing those streaks are coming to an end.

Lots of people have spilled lots of ink collectively worrying out loud that our obsessiveness with social media, apps, and the like drives us apart. We are isolated by our devices, self-sorted into silos and echo chambers, spared the humanity of having to look each other in the eyes and come up with something to say. The internet has ruined us, they cry. God save the Millennials!

As the phrase “social distancing” no doubt battles for contention as Webster’s word of the year, isn’t this what we’ve all been preparing for?

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