Today I finally found a few minutes to get to a pile of notebooks, neglected since January 29. These are our dialogue journals, and the students and I write back and forth to each other weekly. Until January 29, that is.
So much happened in February. We had a field trip cancelled and rescheduled. We went on the rescheduled trip. We spent a week reading all around the school in what we called the Reading Marathon. We started a big project of writing 120 stories about people at Al Raja School, and we were trying to finish writing our novels. Since I only have seven periods a week with the children, it might not be surprising that we neglected our dialogue journals for three weeks. Then during the fourth week, on February 25, school was cancelled to help stop the Coronavirus spread here in Bahrain.
This morning as I sat with each book, I would see the face of the child, wonder when I would see her again, say a prayer for her and the family at home, and write a serious letter back to the child. I wrote things like, “I look forward to seeing you again.” Instead of what I would normally write, “Have a great weekend! See you Sunday.” I couldn’t even write, “I look forward to seeing you again next month when we get back from our Coronavirus holiday.” Chances are there will be no school next month either.
I felt the weight of the leaden pages as I thumbed through the emptiness of the back half of a boy’s notebook. His last entry had ended with making a challenge to fill the whole hundred-page dialogue journal before summer, “I’m sure we’ll be able to fill up this notebook with our letters this year,” he enthusiastically wrote. Not likely, Mohammed.
We are living in an unsettled time now, to be sure, a time of sadness and uncertainty. There were poignant times when I felt this loss today, like the examples above. However, the entries were also fun and playful and silly at times, because that’s what they had written to me, so I answered their queries and listened and responded and celebrated with them about what they had chosen to tell me–a Captain Underpants book review, a detailed game in Roblox, a description of the lunch at sports day, a child who was able to score from a high pass during the sports day soccer tournament and much more.
What better way to spend these days than doing what I love most? Teaching, helping, encouraging, and giving hope and comfort to children.
They are giving me the same.