Vanessa Dueck: Back to School

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Virtual learning has been hard on everyone involved but schools are cautiously starting to open up. Vanessa Dueck and her two children are ready for a taste of normal.

My 7-year-old son and I were sitting on the same bench we had sat at most every afternoon during the pandemic. He had just finished another day of Zoom school and I was starting to worry about a new tick he’d developed from all of the screen time. “I just want to go to sleep so this day can end,” he said.

Previous to this, there had been red flags that the isolation was getting to my two school-aged children, kindergarten and second grade the constant bickering, the frequent emotional outbursts. But this? Wanting to go to sleep to not have to endure another pandemic day? This was a whole new level of despair.

Like a lot of Bay Area families, mine is not originally from the area. Aside from the occasional sympathetic phone call from far away relatives, my family is on our own and fairly isolated.

Our public school district announced in late March that in-person learning was going to begin on April 1. All of the instruction is still online as before. There are now two afternoon in-person sessions per week that are a time for connection with classmates and teachers.

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At first I was apprehensive, wondering why the school chose this option instead of a different hybrid model. Since the school is right across from my house, I decided to opt in to try and give my children a slightly more normal school experience. On April 1, I dropped my son off to be with the five others from his class that signed up.

An hour and 20 minutes later I picked him up. As soon as I saw his joyful face as he skipped out the doors of the school, I knew my decision was right for him. On the way home, he excitedly told me all about his time: making a name tag, finding out he has things in common with a new friend, even getting a non-virtual book to read, picked out by his teacher. It's these small things that we used to take for granted that now mean the world to my children.

Distance education has been isolating. I am thankful for the decision to open up, even a little bit. Now I see my son smiling each evening when he goes to sleep saying, “Only a few more days until I get to go to school!”

With a Perspective, I’m Vanessa Dueck.

Vanessa Dueck is a writer and aspiring elite runner in the South Bay.