The virtual Christmas concert is over. The students have gone home. Campus is quiet. I have submitted my grades, and we’ve closed the book on the strangest semester I’ve ever had as a teacher. As I think back on it, I keep returning to one remarkable detail: we had no positive student cases of COVID this semester.
Not a single one.
I concede that we were lucky no student returned from summer break with the virus. Or from Thanksgiving break for that matter. Some students arrived late, quarantining at home due to symptoms. A few staff did test positive here and there and therefore worked remotely. That we had no student cases on campus wasn’t only because of luck: it was because we had a plan. In the words of the late Br. John Willger: “Plan your work and work your plan!”
This past spring was a mess. When the pandemic erupted in March, we were thrown very unexpectedly into virtual schooling, and teachers did what seemed to make sense for themselves. Everyone had a different idea about what that meant, leaving students with a host of different expectations for engagement and assessment.
When we returned in the fall, there were plans for everything: returning to campus, daily health screenings, quarantining and instruction for those not in the classroom (including teachers!), online platforms for homework, classroom cleaning protocols, mask requirements, social distancing, dorm life expectations…
And it seems to have worked. No positive student cases of COVID this semester. Not a single one.
My students don’t like wearing their masks. I don’t enjoy teaching in one. We struggle with adapting the learning: group work, board work and projects all look very different this year. We space out as much as possible. We constantly sanitize everything. We dislike it, but it’s part of the plan. And the plan works. The plan has kept us safe so far. The plan has kept us open.
I don’t know what the second semester will bring. I hope we continue to have no positive student cases of COVID. I pray our students and staff remain safe. I expect the plan will continue to protect us from the worst of it. And every morning I will put on my mask and do my part.
Mr. Anthony Van Asten is an alumnus of St. Lawrence Seminary High School as well as a teacher of the school since 2007. He teaches speech, english 11, and communication classes and is known to always sport a bowtie.