Thanks to COVID-19, my son’s “meet the teacher” day went a bit differently this year. He actually met us back when he was born!
My son will be schooling at home this year like many children across the country (except for those running the government). Our living room transformed a bit into a third-grade classroom, with a couple maps and a whiteboard on the wall. We even bought an old-school pencil sharpener just so he’d feel at hom…ur…school.
His school mascot is no longer a lion but our Australian Shepherd (who hasn’t really gotten his gameday dance down yet). The intercom system is just me yelling.
A highlight of his school in the past had been “jammie day.” But now he can — and does — wear his PJs for at least the first couple hours of school every day. But since he’s safely at home he doesn’t have to dress like he’s about to rob a bank just to work on math.
When the weather’s nice, we sit outside for a class session — which makes for unexpectedly vivid teaching moments like when reading a poem about a duck fishing in the water while watching a duck diving in lake at the nearby park. But then, it’s also a bit odd as he’s lying on the floor with a stuffed Cookie Monster while working on spelling words (“it’s ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c,’ no don’t sing that song again”).
A bonus of this is learning alongside him. Turns out King Alfred in England in the 9th century had a candle clock with lines marked to track hours as the candles burned away. But it also makes for odd work hours as I type this in the evening — according to my new set of candles — after spending a couple hours during normal work hours with school.
While this time of coronavirus brings new challenges and stresses, I also recognize we’re blessed. My wife and I have some flexibility with our work schedules to make this school year work. We have good internet access, unlike kids I’ve seen on the news sitting on the curb outside fast food restaurants so they can log on for school. We have family members covering some of the schooling, which my son enjoys as he doesn’t walk down the school hallway but scooters or bikes through the neighborhood to his next outdoor classroom.
So, I can’t really complain. We and our loved ones so far have stayed healthy. In a year when about one million people worldwide have died from this virus — and more than 30 million have been infected — it’s a minor inconvenience to lead school at home, attend church virtually, and skip planned trips.
But while I can’t really complain, I’m still angry. It didn’t have to be this way. We could’ve done better. Our country has less than 5% of the world’s population but more than 20% of the global COVID-19 infections and deaths. Our rate of infections per one million people puts us in the company of countries like Brazil, Peru, and Kuwait — and four or more times worse than Italy, Denmark, Canada, and Germany. Are we even a “first-world” country anymore?
Our politicians refuse to make the necessary pro-life decisions to keep us safe. It’s bad enough that many of them refuse to listen when the nation’s medical experts recommend mask mandates. But some of our politicians actually criticize wearing masks, modeling risky behavior that unnecessarily doomed thousands of our citizens.
And it’s even worse that some of our preachers do the same. Refusing to respect the advice of scientists, some plowed ahead with dangerous behaviors that sparked dozens of virus hotspots across the country. We’re supposed to be spreading the Good News of Jesus, not the coronavirus. Even if our selfish politicians won’t love their neighbors through actions to stop the spread, can’t Christians at least be willing to go the extra mile to save lives?
Maybe some politicians and preachers need to also go home for school during this pandemic. As minister Robert Fulghum famously wrote in his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, there are basic lessons there we still need. Like share, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that aren’t yours, say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody, and wash your hands before you eat.
Which reminds me, I need to go make sure my son picked up his stuff and washed his hands again. School got a little messy today, but I’m sure the jammies will be okay.
Brian Kaylor is editor & president of Word&Way.