By Lauren, 2019-2020 Literacy First Tutor
At the time, I was completely unaware that Thursday, March 12th would be my last day of tutoring. As far as I knew, it was a normal weekday. I do not remember much of the school day, but I do remember choosing a t-shirt to wear to field day the next morning. My team had made a plan to meet to set up games and find a station to facilitate. I remembered field day from when I was a student, and I could not wait to share those fun experiences with my students and create a new memory with them.
That night, I received text messages from a teacher’s aide with links to the Austin ISD website. The first notification informed me that all major gatherings, including field days, were canceled. I felt disappointed, but I understood that a day of play involving the entire school could spread a disease quickly if someone with COVID-19 were to attend. The next morning, I awoke to a more surprising message. School had been entirely canceled on Friday. I became confused at the rapid escalation of the situation. I thought surely a normal day at school could be safe with more regulated activities and smaller group settings.
Now that Austin schools have been closed indefinitely, I am trying to cope with the possibility that I may never see my students again. If I had known that March 12th would be my last day with them, I would have spent the day entirely differently. I would have told each of them how proud I am of how much they had learned. I would have tried to explain to them that the time they had off from school would eventually end and they would get to see their friends and teachers again. I would have told them that it’s okay to be scared, but to try to look for things everyday that make them happy. I would have given them stories to read and an extra set of flashcards to practice. I would have asked them to keep learning and reading when they were away. I would have said a proper goodbye.
I can’t help but wonder what my young students think and feel about the situation we are currently facing. They haven’t experienced patterns of life long enough to understand the irregularity of these times. I wonder what they think about the sudden end of the school year, and how they are spending their time.
I think about my students often, and I try to grasp the fleeting details of their distinctive dispositions before the memories of my service year disappear. Lars was gregarious and courteous. Michael was curious about the world around him, and he noticed things that could be improved and noted how to fix them. Antonio liked to know the reasons for things and also liked to have agency in his lessons. Liam came to each lesson with a great amount of energy and a smile. Phoenix could be reserved, but she also enjoyed working hard. Javier cared a great deal for punctuality and ensuring that all of his classmates were safe. Ben liked to make jokes from the content of our lessons, but he would always follow directions when redirected. Olivia loved to practice her handwriting more than any other student I had, and she loved to look back at how much she had improved. Charlotte loved to make art, and she also paid attention to the details of the people in her life. Asher could read and write better than he believed that he could, and he was gaining more confidence in his abilities. Emma could be bashful, but she had lovely manners and always did what was expected of her. Megan loved to chat about everything under the sun, and she was always very honest about her feelings toward our lessons. Cleo had a very active imagination, and she could sense how others were thinking and feeling. Luis was sweet and reserved, and he loved to dance and celebrate meeting his goal. Hugo was always eager to learn, and he loved to have fun while he worked. Angel liked the sound of her own reading voice, and she loved to practice reading passages at home with her mother. Tate could be hard on himself for making mistakes, and he was always responsible for ensuring his classmates were doing what was expected of them.
Each of my students were unique and strong and capable. I will miss their random hugs, laughing with them, and celebrating when they met their goals. If I had known that Thursday, March 12th would be my last day with them, I would have appreciated each second more. As someone who usually likes to dreamily imagine the distant future, I now understand the importance of being in the present moment. I cannot change my final day of tutoring, but I can be more intentional with the people around me each moment from this day forward. My service year taught me many lessons, but being present is the most important one.