There but not yet there

Time has taken on an unreal, plastic quality. A year has gone by in which the world as we knew it changed, in some important ways. Days weave past us on and off the screen, our attention managed by an hourly schedule that pays no heed to domestic routines or divisions between “official hours” and “personal time”. Everything spills into everything else.

And now it looks like there is soon to be a return to what time used to be like. Regimented into at-home and not-at-home, requiring planning for travel time and packed lunches, along with the everyday decisions about what to wear and how to plan the evening meal!

For many of us, this is something to look forward to, the pleasures of meeting colleagues face to face and sharing tea in the staff room, shouting at children running in the hallways, listening to the squeak of the chalk (or the marker) on the black/white/green board, and even wiping the sweat off our brow as the ceiling fan (if you’re lucky enough to have one) ineffectually slices through the humid air.

Ah, the classroom! Ah, those dusty corridors! Ah, the noisy, unruly children! Ah, the tedium of the traffic and the waiting at bus stops! Ah, the morning rush!

Okay, I get it, it’s not all rosy and wonderful, this return to normalcy, and certainly not for everyone. And for many of us, we’re finding that new and old anxieties are resurfacing in odd ways. This, despite the fact that when you walk outside, the world seems to be carrying on much as usual, many mask-less, not maintaining the requisite physical distance, touching everything and their faces as if the pandemic had never happened. So for some of us, the anxiety has to do with exposure and the continuing concern about risk of infection and disease. But for some of us, the anxieties stem from other sources. We worry about catching up. We worry about having to re-learn the routine. We worry about missing children, particularly in rural classrooms, and we worry about being social – and sociable – again.

The anxiety is not just something that affects us as teachers and adults, but surely, it is something that our wards must feel, too. As the cover story in this issue suggests, children often do not recognize or are unable to articulate their deeply felt discomforts, and this begins to affect how they view school, learning, and life. Even as we recognize our own sources of worry and fear, we should keep a look out for the many bogeys, big and small, that the child’s world harbours. If we realize we, adults and children, are in this together, it could be a first step to dealing with those bogeys.

Yes, it is wonderful that the world is finally opening up again, but there’s a cloud in the silver lining that we must not disregard.

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