I’ve been wondering since the onset of this crisis how the concept of community, and how we perceive certain institutions in our community, has changed.
Speaking from a public school perspective, I can tell you that the perception of what our school is and who goes there, both to work and learn, has changed dramatically — but not unsurprisingly.
It has been interesting to see how the school building went from being an obligation to an oasis. Students, families, and teachers all began to realize that the school is and was so much more than just some place they had to be. In all actuality it is a place where they want to be.
Of course the students don’t miss the long lectures I would give on Federalism or on how to write a cover letter, but they miss seeing their peers. They miss the support that everyone in the building gave each other.
The same goes for the adults in the building. I know that I miss my “teacher friends” who have become like family over my five years at Wilmington High School. I miss my students, who will forever be “my kids.”
We public school teachers take great pride in being in the building day after day, providing for students who need something , whether that is guidance, a shoulder, or just some humor to brighten their day. Yes, the year can grind on for everyone, and yes, students always look forward to summer break.
But if I were honest and reflective, and I bet if everyone else were too, we could all admit that this is not the way we wanted to end the year.
Seniors are missing their moments, underclassmen are missing that collective sigh of relief when they realize they made it another year, teachers are not getting the closure that is so bittersweet at the end of every year, and families are missing that victorious feeling of helping a young person navigate the minefield of adolescence.
So how has the perspective of our school family changed?
We went from being a legally mandated facility to a wellspring of hope and ambition. Students went from longing for the warmth of summer to perhaps wanting just one more day in their favorite class.
I hope that none of us, myself especially, forget this feeling right now, in this moment, of how much we long to be a physical part of that community again.
I know that good days and bad years ebb and flow just like the tide, but I hope I never lose this feeling of gratitude for having the opportunity of serving Wilmington and its students.
Dillon Oney is a social studies teacher at Wilmington High School.