I have a confession to make; I love Broadway musicals. Maybe this is not so much a confession as it is the further evidence that I am a complete nerd. There is just something about the concept of getting lost in the musical numbers of a famous play or watching actors onstage perform a different persona that, selfishly, I wish I possessed. Regardless, musicals are my guilty pleasure. Suffice to say, I was pumped when I recently discovered a playlist on Amazon Music titled “Broadway Hits”. It consists of almost every famous Broadway musical number one can think of. If it won a Tony, a song from that play is definitely present. If like me, you are a nerdy musical lover, or you just enjoy a carefree playlist, then I recommend you take a listen.
Now to the question I am sure is on every reader’s mind, what does this have to do with education? For most of you, school has officially begun. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to explain how some songs on this playlist summarize how teachers feel about this school year.
To start, I would love to say that we do not find “Totally F’d” (shorthand added) from Spring Awakening relevant to this school year. I traditionally find myself a positive person. I do not openly complain, and if or when I do, it is typically over mundane things that I find it best to just openly vent about and then I move on. However, with cases rising and the thought of sickly children entering the building, it is a little hard to stay overly positive. The concept of having Covid is scary, but spreading it to our loved ones is even more fearsome. As it currently stands, the likelihood of a vaccine by the end of the year is low; so for the next 4-6 months the potential for exposure to Covid in a classroom of 30+ kids over the course of six hours is, to say the least, pretty high. I mean if we cannot trust kids to stay home when they have the flu, do we seriously expect them to stay home when they could have Covid?
Which brings me to my next song on the Broadway playlist: “Seize the Day” from Newsies. The song begins with the lines “now is the time to seize the day. Stare down the odds and seize the day. Minute by minute, that’s how you win it. We will find a way. But let us seize the day.” If you are a Dead Poets Society fan, you are probably sitting here screaming “YOU MEAN CARPE DIEM!” Well, yes. To all my teachers out there, let us Carpe Diem this school year! Let me be straightforward here: state testing and all that crap is out the window. Yes, we have to do it. But, do you seriously believe that it is going to be taken seriously? If the governor forces it down our throat, great; however, if you honestly believe a kid sitting at home will learn much better than he or she will in a classroom, than I have a huge plot of land I will gladly sell you for $200k; unfortunately, I will need the money upfront. So let us just seize the day. For the first time in forever—hello Frozen—we have the chance to make the classroom exactly what we want it to be. We have the ability to take the stress of testing, throw it out the window, and prove to the masses that we, not the state nor the likes of Betsy Devos, know what students need and how best to teach them. We should seize this moment and impact the lives of students and the future of education for years to come! There are positive moments in these dark times, so why not target them and make them meaningful?
Of course, in order to do this we need to acknowledge that we are all in this together. Another guilty admission here is that I have no issues with clichés; thus, “it takes a village” to get through obstacles. From Administrators to teachers to EAs to parents, we all have a role to play. We can sit here and wallow in self-pity, or post on Facebook about how terrible the decision to go to online learning is, but what good does that do for our kids or the already low morale? Instead, listen to our next song on the playlist of Covid School Year 2020, “Suddenly, Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors, and understand that there are people out there who are here for you. Instead of complaining, offer to help. A dear friend of mine recently created the Facebook group Bristol Covid Co-op to do just that. The entire group is meant as a meeting place for parents and educators to help each other during this time of great need. During a normal year, would you be sitting at home with nothing to do during school hours? Offer to watch your friends’ kids. Do you have the knowledge and ability to help tutor kids during after school hours? Offer to lend a help when it comes to homework. Can you cook, knit, draw, write, or possess some other creative skillset? Send something positive to your kids’ teachers; lord knows we need it. The fact is, it does not matter what you can or cannot do, just offering a hand to your fellow man is enough. Just be positive and kind to others, you will be amazed what that can do.
Finally, to my fellow teachers, I get it. This is arguably going to be the most ridiculously difficult year education has ever had. Not only is the pandemic currently raging through our community, but our kids will be entering our classrooms without six months of structured learning AND it is an election year, which means we will be hearing all sorts of craziness. So let us band together and do what we always do best: show the kids love. In other words, let us make our final song truly relevant for kids, and make this school year’s theme all about the “Seasons of Love” from Rent. As the song teaches us, it does not matter how much you measure the amount of time a kid spends in the classroom or in front of computer. It does not matter how much you measure their learning ability or what they make on a test. What matters is the amount of love you show that child. A kid will never remember the assignments he or she did in your classroom because it was meaningful; he or she will remember it because they loved you and compassion you showed them. Forget the state tests, the outside noise, and the negativity that is surely to be all around us this year; and instead focus on giving the kids what they need most: a quality education with a lot of love.