For many, we can recall exactly where we were and what we were doing upon learning that school would be shut down for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was impossible to properly predict how long we would be out, so many of us grabbed our personal belongings, headed home, and prepared to see one another in two weeks once this had blown over.
Flash forward to a year later, and most of us were tentatively going back into the building, albeit in groups separated by grades, getting readjusted to the rigor of physically going to class. It seemed that this was our “new normal:” seeing one another two half-days per week, taking tests and quizzes with the echoing silence of a Zoom room, and staring at our computers for a minimum of six hours per day. Yet, with as much shock and surprise as was the case when we were forced to conduct school online, all of a sudden we were given the all-clear to go back into the building, yet another unforeseen change in our academic schedule.
After many months of entirely online school in the Upper School, students have finally been given the opportunity to come into school all day, five days a week. Additionally, Chicago vaccinations have now opened to everyone who is sixteen and up. These changes are excellent steps towards returning to the life we once knew; however, it does not mean that we can act without respect for others.
With great positive strides, we are allowed to be excited and grateful. Yes, with vaccinations comes more freedom in safe activities, but that doesn’t mean we can be reckless. There are still students with hesitations in going back, and even if you are feeling safe in the building, that does not mean the person who is sitting next to you in English class is feeling the same.
Previous editorials have emphasized the point that we must be cautious off-campus, as at the time very few of us were vaccinated and we needed to put others before our Friday night plans. Now, we are asking you to maintain that same caution, but refrain from imposing judgment on those who do not wish to return to “normalcy” as quickly as you may.
We on The Weekly have observed a sudden rush to return to the way that Parker operated pre-pandemic, with in-person lessons, teachers walking around asking questions, and long-awaited side conversations that were virtually impossible to conduct online. And while a large portion of the student body is getting to experience these perks of returning in-person, a significant part of the Upper School is not.
Whether it’s being respectful physically while at school (PLEASE keep your mask on over your nose AND mouth!), or emotionally (understanding how others may be facing this difficult time differently than you), adjusting to in-person school is a big change, and we all should be making efforts to support those who may feel less safe than we do.
Gratitude is a concept that has come up a lot during this 2020-2021 school year. The senior class created a website where members of the Parker community can post messages of thanks that they want to give to others, and the bulletin board above the third floor bench has been converted into a space to write notes about who they are thankful for in this time. We ask that you take the time to think about those who you too are grateful for, regardless of if you posted it on the board or not.
Be grateful for all of the teachers who are putting themselves at risk and adapting their plans to educate all members of the community, regardless of their stance on going back or not. Be grateful for the administration who worked hard to put together a plan to go back, and for the maintenance staff who makes sure the school is safe and disinfected for each new day of class. If you are lucky enough to have received a vaccine, recognize that not everyone has been fortunate enough to do so and be grateful that your journey towards “normalcy” has been shortened.
Additionally, take the time to be grateful for and respect your peers who are still showing up to classes online, engaging in the curriculum, even though they are not always included in every activity. Make a conscious effort to ensure that their presence is felt in the classroom, by both the students and the teacher, and do not forget to recognize your privilege to be back in person during a pandemic.
It’s okay to express your gratefulness through excitement — we are excited by these positive strides too! — but, also be sure to express your gratefulness through respect, responsibility, and empathy for others, in order to make Parker safe in all facets.