Sandhya Acharya: All Better

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Teachers are finding inventive ways to make virtual classrooms lively and entertaining, as Sandhya Acharya's 6-year-old discovered on the first full day of school.

School reopenings have been a bit lackluster this year. Kids could not line up for their first-day-at-school pictures; they could not play tag with their friends, they could not try new tricks on the playground, and they could not hug their new teachers.

But my child’s teacher had a surprise for us. When we stopped at school to wave a socially distanced hello, the teacher handed us a box full of mysterious packages. The kids were instructed to only open it with the whole class a full four days later.

The waiting was tough, but they did it. When the day finally came, separately in their own homes, but together on the screen, they gingerly slid the ribbon off their box. One by one, they shook the contents, smelled it, felt it, took a guess of what it might be. They went through name tags, login badges, workbooks. Then they opened a pouch with pencils, sharpeners, erasers, and a little panda pencil cap. The held up their pouches, different colors filling the screen. Together they sharpened the pencils, examined the sharpener, and held the pale pink eraser. Finally, they picked up the little panda pencil cap. It was no bigger than their thumbs, black and white, with a little brown clip.

“The clip comes off,” someone yelled through the screen, “and you can put it on the pencil's bottom.” “You can also use it to cover the sharp point,” another kid suggested. “Or you can use it as a puppet,” someone else added.


I watched my 6-year-old hold his own little panda pencil cap; his tiny fingers cradling it, his face lit up with awe and delight.  COVID might have robbed these kids of many precious moments. However, the teachers had, with their little gesture, created a magical moment for them to last forever. After the class, my 6-year-old bounced around saying, “Little Panda made everything better.”

I agreed.

With a Perspective, I’m Sandhya Acharya.

Sandhya Acharya is an author of children’s books.