It has now been over a year since the world as we know it came to an abrupt halt because of the virus. The other day, two colleagues were telling me that, a year ago, everyone was confident that it wouldn’t last. Of course, they thought back then, we’ll be able to go back to school ‘normally’ after the April vacation.

The Harsh Reality

Today, we obviously know that our optimism was put to a harsh test. We know that all of our predictions and our hopes were cast aside one after the other. The restrictions are starting to be lifted. And yet, Europe is going into lockdown for the third or fourth time. It’s hard to remember anymore. Can we go to Europe during the break? Can we come back to the US?

Personally, I am simply avoiding bringing up the subject with my mum as I am starting to realize that it’s not clear if I will be able to go home to see her this year either. And I know I’m not the only one. And even though the situation in New York seems to be getting better overall, even though more and more of us are getting vaccinated, it is a paradox that this is the time that our community is the most affected.

We are Still Here

And in the midst of all this is the team at The École. Resilient, brave and persistent. I am currently in the middle of annual contract meetings. They are even more important to me this year since I haven’t been able to meet with my colleagues as much as I would have liked. From these conversations, which are still going on, I sense a great feeling of pride. Not that the year is over, far from it. Certainly not that we are letting our guard down. But that the journey we have undertaken since the beginning of the year already seems impressive, fraught as it has been with pitfalls and constraints. And that, despite all of that, despite the anxiety, the masks, the social distancing, the scares and the stress, we are still here. And we are a little bit richer thanks to these new experiences.

Amongst these new experiences, of course, is online teaching or rather hybrid teaching. That is, teaching children who are online while also teaching children in the classroom. I’m not necessarily talking about the few students who have been online all year. With them students and teachers alike found their rhythm. And according to the very specific circumstances, they fell into a routine and were able to maintain an invaluable pedagogical continuity.

The Challenges of Hybrid Teaching

In the end, the most difficult things to do and to put in place were the sporadic quarantines, the emails affecting Monday plans that come in on a Sunday, the lessons that were planned for being onsite but don’t really work online, and so everything has to be rethought. Our families have the right to be very demanding of us. It is our duty, in the words of a colleague who I spoke with at the beginning of the year, to not let them down. Our teachers have given their all. I know very well that there were, here and there, missteps and mistakes. However, the only person to blame in all of these cases was me.

I am to blame, firstly, because I am ultimately responsible for the quality of the education at The École. Secondly, I am to blame because, looking back, my big regret is not having taken enough time during the year—even though I write to you every week!—to explain to you how difficult it is, technically, to teach students who are in class at the same time as students who are at home. I should have told you repeatedly. I should have hammered home the fact that it is a truly amazing feat. And I should have told you that I will forever remain astounded by what I have seen our teachers do this year. They have done so well, in fact, that I—perhaps we all—have ended up forgetting how difficult what they have to do is.

So, here at The École, we may not have been given the Légion d’honneur for how we have managed this crisis. But I believe our teachers deserve all our gratitude and admiration. Consider it said.