It was just the beginning of spring, and I know this now because I think back on how surprised we all were to hear the famous jingle we share in our collective memory of childhood-the one that brings sweet treats throughout the neighborhood on the hottest days of the summer and well into the sweaty Michigan fall weather. But on this day, it was completely unexpected.
There were five or so of us in my classroom after school, our Empathy for All meeting had just wrapped up, and we didn’t want to leave just yet for one reason or another. So we were slowly cleaning, moving desks back to their spaces, eating up the last bits of bottom bag chips, and we all heard it-the ice cream truck. At school. It was as if we were all transported to childhood, yet I was still the adult in the situation. Everyone looked at me-their teacher-their EFA sponsor with wide eyes and furrowed brows. Was it what we all thought it could be?
No one said anything. We just looked at each other in awe-this sudden gift-a break in the norm of high school-a trip down memory lane.
And just as quickly as everyone looked to me, they looked to Kieran, who was bolting toward my windows that faced the front parking lot of the school, a direct route to Choco Tacos and Sponge Bob on a stick with bubble gum eyes.
Kieran was so quick that I didn’t have time to offer up a warning or encouragement. I just sat there, still shocked that we were about to eat ice cream from an ice cream truck at school, which is located on a highway rather than in any type of neighborhood.
As I pondered this, I watched him try to jump through the open window, no longer a child, but a man child, and break the crank of an already old window. His fellow EFA members rerouted as quickly as one does on the Georgia expressway to file out the other windows adjacent to his.
Kieran stumbled. Hard. But he didn’t fall. And he finally got his Sno Cone. Soon everyone came back inside still giggling, mingling a little longer trying to figure out how to fix the window. It is always one of my fondest teacher memories.
Until last night.
It woke me from a dead sleep.
I cannot open that window anymore. The crank still has never been replaced, and the windows on the other side now have the same issue from normal wear for fifty year old windows. I can fill out countless requests but the windows need replacing, not fixing.
And it hit me again.
I sat straight up in bed. Unable to return to any type of slumber I had summoned with exhaustion and wine.
If were to open the windows, you can no longer crank them shut, so what has happened in the past, is that you send a kid or two outside to push in from there and then try with all your might to latch it shut from indoors.
But not with new security systems in place because of school shootings and ALICE training.
And kids touching more doors aside from mine.
And kids not being able to social distance if they did this together-one holding the side door open (security breach), one go outside and push (security breach), another (or myself) try latching from the inside. Then sanitize everyone. Repeat at the end of each day.
It is just too risky.
And so is air inside the classroom.
What was once a beautiful memory of high schoolers behaving like the children that they still are has turned into a nightmare. And if that isn’t a metaphor for what we are asking of students when we return back into classrooms, I don’t know what else is.
My windows will have to remain shut.
Is that safer than putting 2-3 other students at more risk? Safer than putting our entire building at risk breaching security due to school shooters?
I cannot open my windows anymore.
And it is getting increasingly hard to shut my eyes every night, too.