Coming to Terms
July 20, 2020
July 20, 2020
One of the assignments Cheryl Reynolds gave her students this spring was to write a letter to the coronavirus and let it know how it was making them feel. Here, the Rockingham Education Association member and English teacher at Montevideo Middle School talks a little about how that assignment worked out:
During our distance learning, I asked my students to write about things that mattered to them. They spoke loudly, sharing not only their frustrations, anger, and sadness, but their joys, too. When I assigned them the task of writing COVID-19 a letter, we were several weeks into distance learning, so my students had time to fully realize the good, the bad, and the ugly this pandemic had brought to their lives. I wanted them to talk about all the things this pandemic had done to them and their families, and I only had a few requirements: it needed to be school appropriate, it needed to be set up like a letter, and it should be written in paragraph form.
Once the letters began pouring in, I learned so much about my students. Most people would think middle-schoolers would only be angry about not getting to see their friends and not getting to participate in sporting activities, band and choral concerts, the middle school musical, and other events they’d been anticipating. They were angry, but they also shared so many positive things the pandemic had done to them and their families. The positives seemed to outweigh the negatives, and that’s why I wanted to share their thoughts and feelings. These students found joy and happiness during a pandemic. Here are just three examples:
I’ve gotten used to homeschooling now. In fact, because of you, I have more time to do my classwork. Also, I’ve learned new computer tricks that may become helpful in life. But not seeing my friends has saddened me, and some of the only forms of communication with them are unsatisfying. I do miss the days when we would gather around a book and read aloud to each other, smiling and feeling that nothing in the world could stop us from being happy.
But what you don’t want to know is that we are surviving. We have formed stronger bonds with the people we love, and although life as we know it will never be the same, we will change. Coping with loss and panic, gaining strength, and standing back up is something that you, COVID-19, can never change.
My first question is just why? Why do you need to take so many people from their families? Why do you need to be completely different from anything we’ve ever seen? You are wrecking lives. You are destroying families. You are preventing people from being with their loved ones, even as they take their final breath. Why? Because of you, parents can’t sleep. Because of you, children wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares of their family catching you.
You have ruined so many lives, but in a strange way, your curse is also a blessing. You have brought families that are stuck in the same house closer together. You have given so many people time to do things that they normally could only dream of. You have given me a
new perspective on life. You’ve taught me not to take even simple things, like going to the store, or going to a friend’s house, for granted.”
When I first met you, I wasn’t scared. You were so far away, and we didn’t know what your intention was, or what you were capable of doing. You kept your distance…for a while. Then you showed up in my continent, in my state, and in my town. You spread like a wildfire. You even hurt someone my parents knew, but you let him be free of you and return to his two new babies and wife. You tried to tear everyone apart by not letting us be together, but we just grew closer.
You showed me that I can get up every morning and breathe. I can give thanks for my life. I can focus on what I want for the future, and give thanks for what I have now. You have helped everyone practice sanitary habits. We clean more, but more importantly, we show more love. The crime rate has gone down. We give (send) flowers to each other. We write letters and have the opportunity to be happier, and calmer when we focus on that.
Now, I have two requests for you: please help others to see the beauty in all things and all people. We need to take advantage of that. Second, please slow down so we can conquer you. This is all so complicated and hating you takes a lot of energy, so please do not return.