Last week, I had the chance to spend a little time with some students in one of the Kindergarten classes. After taking a moment to recognize their emotions and talk about why they felt that way, the children started to sing. Julien, their teacher, had just picked up his guitar and started to strum the notes as if they were going to practice their scales. And then, the children, in one voice, all started to sing this nursery rhyme, which they all know. Instead of singing do, re, mi, etc.—the notes of the scale—the words tell the story of a flea on one’s back. This flea would not have been able to climb so high if it had been scratched earlier.
It is hard not to see in this flea, a flea that shouldn’t have been able to climb so high, a metaphor for the rolling positivity rate that is threatening us. In Kindergarten, students learn new words nearly every day. Similarly, for most of us adults, 2020 has been a chance to (re)discover some terms that we were not familiar with. Unfortunately, these words have been setting the rhythm of our daily lives for the past few months: lockdown, distancing, positivity, etc.
I would be lying to you if I told you that right now, we are not glued to the most recent tweets of the mayor of NYC or of the NY governor. I would be lying if I said that we are not extremely frustrated by the decisions that could be taken in the coming days. Just as we are frustrated by the dangers this new wave brings along with it. As close as it is to us, this wave almost seems inevitable.
Despite all of this, for the moment we must remain calm. Manhattan is still one of the safest places in the world (in terms of Covid-19), which makes the thought of returning to remote learning even more unfair. The reality is that we don’t know what decisions will be made or whom they will concern. For the past three months, The École has shown itself to be wonderfully agile in being onsite full-time and staying that way. Our community responded by adopting responsible behaviors and by minimizing the risks as much as possible. We know that we can, up to a certain point obviously, ensure the safety of our students and our employees. Furthermore, in March we made the decision to go online in advance. Whereas, today our position is to stay onsite as long as possible, again, with due regard for the safety of everyone.
Having lived through it in Taiwan and hearing from you often on the topic, I know that remote, online learning is not an easy thing. And I know that no one—not a single teacher, parent, student or head of school—wants to go through that again. However, at the same time, it would be silly to bury our heads in the sand and to not be prepared so that, if necessary, this remote learning can take place in the best way possible.
For the moment, the numbers are alarming (and the criteria established several months ago seem a bit obsolete). Nevertheless, they remain at a level that allows schools—and crazily enough gyms—to remain open. I have confidence in New Yorkers that we can keep it this way so that we can avoid a transition to remote learning. So, I will be going back into classrooms as often as I can. Because I have this opportunity and because, as the long work week comes to an end, I have the privilege to be able to listen to children sing songs about fleas on people’s backs. Let’s hope that it lasts…