It has been over 14 months since you first came to visit. Since then, you have single-handedly forced us into a global pandemic. As I sit here writing this letter, I think about how uncomfortable and complex you have made our lives. Without warning, you’ve challenged me and others to juggle unfamiliar levels of uncertainty. Challenging me and others to with ambiguity and disquiet with no warnings.
You have no regard for who each one of us is. The intensity of your presence is felt by me, family, friends, colleagues, everyone. What scares me is your silence. Your unpredictability. That tenacious, invisible presence. I hear so much about you daily. I try to make sense of the absurd, and the fear: conspiracies, manipulations, divisions. I’m not sure what is what anymore.
You have left me confused and I am doing my best to navigate your presence. With hesitation, I keep looking at my social media feeds to help me understand the latest post about you. But the curated content makes me unsure of what is true, and what is a lie. Apparently, the lie is true, but then I am told the truth is a lie. It’s so hard to wrap my head around it.
I have shed many tears—more than I care to admit. It is the death, the pain, the relentless suffering you cause that hurts most. As you continue to show up unabated, I am humbled by all who care day and night, unselfishly, for those who have succumbed to you. The numbers are an uncomfortable, exponential statistic. Our arrogance with time and the little remorse you share in the limbo of the day. You are harsh!
You came right into my school without asking. You fell on us all, in the city, in the country, and you scared us into a lockdown. My class and I avoided you the best we could with social distancing, disinfectants, and curfews. My class flipped to emergency learning, tried working online, then moved to a hybrid. I looked up and suddenly we were all in each others’ homes, living rooms, and kitchens. I spent hours, coffee mug in hand, late at night, adjusting, redesigning my lessons. I would get memos from the building Principal saying it wasn’t enough, her expectations constantly changing as a disgruntled Board Member breathed down her inbox. I taught my class about “Zoom Fatigue” synchronously and asynchronously, and still a parent emailed me in ALL CAPS about learning loss.
Even though you kept coming back in waves, I did find a sliver of time to pause. It was a minute. I looked around. I could hear the sighs of my colleagues, and suddenly the invisible became visible. Why do we have 16 tests for this grade? Should I even do this online? Flipgrid or padlet? I recognized that wellbeing is about more than a bottle of wine with Netflix. I saw friends anxious, alone, and sad trying to connect to something real, something tangible. My credit card spent more time online than in my wallet. Constant change, in all shapes and forms, is the new normal. Every day, I got creative and convinced myself to be positive and hopeful. I threw away my old box of lessons and leaned on my PLN for inspiration in breakout rooms. I took another pause, found more time to listen and learn. My class raised their hands and whispered through their masks “voice and choice.” I played with the idea, it felt right—why would I go back to the past?
I’m not sure what your plans are now, or how much longer you’ll be around. But I will turn the page, because I know looking back makes little sense. I will start at zero and forget the past as much as I can. So much I have learned, so much I can do better at, so much is far more important than I ever imagined. You gave me a moment to think about balance, respect, dignity, community. Okay I get it, this is not your last visit. I will not ignore things anymore: the hurricanes, the droughts, and floods. I am not going to ask you for details, or even predict the best next step. I realise where we are, and where I need to go.
I am not sure why I am even writing all this to you, but in the unexpected manner your visit fell on us all, I realise now we cannot continue the way we have been. This is clear to me and I understand this. We don’t have a choice. So now, as I finish this letter, it is up to me to step up and reimagine tomorrow anew.
John Mikton is currently the Head of Education and Media Technology/ Deputy Principal at the International School of Luxembourg.