Four Real People. Four Real Stories.

March 23, 2020
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Everybody's life has changed.  And what would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago is now the new "normal."   We wanted to see what that meant first-hand, so we reached out to a few people and asked them to share their stories, which, we guess, may not be all that different from your own.   

Sophia is a senior in high school-- looking forward, until recently, to sports championships, school dances and everything that is part of being a senior, including that once-in-a-lifetime high school graduation.  Brett is a senior also, at University of Maryland in College Park, who just moved back home, and is now envisioning how his final two months of college will play out.  Will he ever have a commencement? Iris works in an office, but now she is forced to work at home with four adult children in the house...while she takes online courses herself, and prepares to get married.   And Michelle is a teacher, wondering now exactly what that means and how she can really teach, without a real classroom.

We'll stay in touch with Sophia, Brett, Iris and Michelle as this continues to unfold, and we'll ask them to update their stories from time to time.  Here, unedited,  are their first ones. 

SOPHIA (High School Senior)

Hi my name is Sophia and I am a senior at St. Paul’s School for girls. I have been going here for 7 years and was excited for senior year and all of the special traditions it holds. I play varsity lacrosse as a goalie and our season had just started when we had to put it on hold as a result of the coronavirus. Recently my school decided that we will have online learning for two weeks and are scheduled to return on April 6th. For me and many of my friends in the senior class hearing this was very tough. We have so many special traditions as seniors which we are uncertain if they will happen. Many of us have bought and tried on prom dresses and graduation dresses and now we don’t even know if we will get to have those milestones. One of the hardest things for me is having lacrosse season cancelled until we return to school. Last year I had to have knee surgery and was out for the entire season. I came back this year excited to play but also maybe win a championship. It has affected the team, we are really close so we miss seeing each other, but mainly we just want to play. I’m not sure if I’ve had my last game on the home turf or if I’ve played for the last time with my best friends. I think the uncertainty is what hurts the most, not only for lacrosse but for our senior year.

Online school starts soon and I’m nervous because I don’t really know what to expect. We have 4.5 hours of work each day so I have to start going to bed at a reasonable time instead of 4am. The lessons for each day “come out” at 8am so I hope to wake up around 10 do my work until lunch and then do the rest after I eat. After that I will work out so I can still be in shape if we can play lacrosse. Also I have been going on daily walks with my mom and my dog (that's her in the  photo), so I will probably continue that. I hope soon I can go back to regular school because I really miss my friends and the structure it brings. If I could pick one thing to have, it would be graduation because I really want that moment so I know all my work over 4 years hasn’t gone to waste.

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BRETT  (College Senior)

Hi! My name is Brett and I am a senior broadcast journalism major at the University of Maryland. Prior to Maryland, I attended Summit Park Elementary and The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland. In my free time, I like being active, playing sports (especially football, basketball, and tennis), hiking, hanging out with friends, and cooking/baking.

It’s been almost a week since I packed up (almost) all of my belongings from my apartment in College Park for spring break. However, this spring break would be unlike all of the other spring breaks that I’ve had thus far in college. This spring break would come in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has turned the world completely upside down. When I was packing up my things last Thursday, March 12, the coronavirus was apparent and spreading rapidly, but it was not affecting everyday life nearly as much as it is now. Since then, restaurants have closed their doors, professional sports leagues have suspended their seasons, and various states across the country have gone into full lockdown mode. It truly is a very unusual time.

With the pandemic seeming to be getting worse and worse, there is less and less to do around the house to keep you sane. Besides taking walks and scrolling through Netflix to find a fun new show to watch, there is not much of anything to keep yourself occupied, especially for someone like me who needs structure and some sort of activity to keep my mind busy. Nevertheless, it still beats stressing over paper after paper and exam after exam that usually take up most of my time when I am at school.

The University of Maryland graciously awarded us with an extra week of spring break, which will give us more time to relax and unwind in the middle of the semester, but also, now Maryland just announced a few days ago that it will move online for the remainder of the semester. Not only will classes be moved online for the rest of the semester, but graduation is now cancelled. At first, I was rejoicing in having to work remotely, but now, I am a little skeptical about how exactly my classes will change, either for better or for worse and the fact that I will not be able to walk across the stage to commemorate my four years as an undergraduate. In this time of uncertainty, it is hard to keep your spirits up, but I do find comfort in the fact that everyone is feeling the same way.

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IRIS  (Office Executive , Now Working at Home)

I'm Iris.  Joe and I always knew that we needed to wait until our children were not living full time with us to  move in together, as we knew so many couples whose relationship struggled after blending their families.  The intent was to wait until all 4 kids graduated college.  Last year with my daughter Rebecca’s graduation from nursing school only a year away, my son Blake planning to spend most of his junior year working and studying abroad , Joe’s daughter,  Nancy, thriving during her freshman year at college,  and Joe’s son , Charlie only being with us every other week, we decided it was time to make our move.  After all, they would hardly ever all be home at the same time.  It would be Joe, I and Rebecca full time, Charlie every other week and Blake and Nancy only on school breaks and possibly a few weeks in the summer.

The plan was going well, our blended family was rarely on top of each other.  Our two dogs gave everyone a common bond and Joe and I actually enjoyed the rare time we were all together, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We got engaged last October and are in the middle of planning a September wedding.

Then came the Coronavirus.  Rebecca’s and Nancy’s classes were moved online, Blake was sent home from Europe with 2 days’ notice, I am working from home and Charlie is still working the evening shift at his job for now.  Joe is going in to work as he is still considered a required employee.

Our house is now full, 4 adult children, 1 mom and 2 dogs home together all day and Joe working, but wishing he didn’t have to. A lot of mouths to feed, a lot of personalities to balance and a lot of disappointed kids, missing out on milestones.   I’m thinking of it as a reality show… an engaged couple intending to get married in September is now living full time with their 4 grown children, trying to self isolate…. Will this wedding happen??  Hope you enjoy following along as this story unfolds.

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MICHELLE (Teacher) 

My name is Michelle. I teach Middle School Spanish and help to coordinate global travel programs at a prep school.  I finished the week of 3/13 learning I would not be taking students on a STEM trip to Iceland.  In a quickly planned faculty meeting, I learned about “asynchronous learning”, concepts such as “virtual gym class”, and video streaming protocol for the non-YouTube generation of teachers.  Then we were fortunate enough to head into a week of Spring Break.

The truth? I had a fabulous week.  Granted, it was not without disappointments. I have had my little letdowns like everyone else.  I was supposed to visit my husband who is working in Costa Rica and whose immigration status to the US will now be delayed for an unknown amount of time – not awesome.  But, on the other hand, I cannot think of a better way to be quarantined than with my 3 daughters in a clean house.  That’s right, with nowhere to go, I cleaned my house like crazy.  I mean like all rooms got clean at once.  More astonishing, all of our laundry is done – even those hand wash only things that you never quite get around to using precious laundry time to do.  I have enjoyed carefree time with my 3 daughters, ages 12-18.  I have not had to race to get anywhere or do anything, since I already had plenty of toilet paper! We played board games (which we found due to said clean house). I have even cooked actual meals.  I feel guilty for saying this, but my week of not being able to go anywhere was just what I needed.

I am fortunate that my school honors that we educators need time to do the next phase of virtual learning the right way.  Sadly, many teachers were given as little as 24 hours to pull this off.  Our school kindly extended the Spring break for students by 2 days so that we teachers weren’t spending days of our own much needed vacation launching education 2.0.  So now I am beginning to prep.

On our last half day of school, my students and I had candid discussions of what post-spring break learning might look like.  They asked, “What is our next unit?”, “How will we learn the material?”  I had to tell them that I didn’t know yet.  I do know we are exploring together.  I do know that we are not going to focus on ‘covering’ curriculum.  We are going to focus on engaging as joyfully as possible with one another.  Here is a truth: Real learning happens not when students are given long lists of vocabulary or endless practice sets, rather when connections are made within ourselves or with each other.  Our goal as I see it is to create happy connections.  With this, I believe the learning – for both my students and myself – will come.  ¡Pura vida! 

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