(Jack Ingle/Unsplash)

"The unprecedented discovery" of returning to the classroom

A teacher and mom, the evening before the reopening of schools. Everything is ready, "it seems almost normal.” Instead, life has changed in recent months. What can rekindle the expectation of a new beginning?

A new school year begins. I am a middle school teacher and a mother of three. I have a son who starts high school in another city, a daughter at school in the corridor next to mine and another one downstairs. We pack our backpacks, tomorrow we will be off. Everything seems normal, intense, but normal. However, in February, from one day to the next, our whole life changed, the world has changed. In just a few days everything closed – roads, regions, states – and everything was deserted. Perplexed gazes, fear, sick friends – some even in a serious condition.

Everything closed down, but the school did not. My students' legs disappeared and they all appeared on my computer screen. I entered their homes and they entered mine. Even just to say: "There they are! Do not be afraid". Upon the foundations of closed classrooms we built something totally new together. I worked so hard, at all hours of the day and night. I worked so hard that even my husband noticed, who was never there during the day. And my children worked so hard too. My oldest graduated from middle school in his room. Now he is a little young man, just like the students who have graduated with me for the last twenty years after finishing their exams. My daughter finished an exhausting but fascinating sixth grade. She has suffered, she missed her friends like the air she breathes, but she managed and she won: she built. My little one, in second grade, enjoyed whatever came along. There have been moments of panic, but we were together, each of us busy and occupied with chores, but together. For us, the world did not collapse.

Now schools are reopening. In June, in fact, many students already went back for summer camp. And I was back there too, very tired, but with a great desire to put everything back into play, in a semi-empty building, having to be attentive to a thousand details and with a lot of tension around. But the students were there, with their legs. Then, at the end of August, back on track with all my colleagues to prepare for the new year. The reunion was wonderful, although without hugs. We just met and looked into each other's eyes, as we have learned to do in recent months.

It has been, and still is today, a return home, although deep down we never left. I consider myself lucky: my school is a home for me. Full of people with an enormous desire: to start over. Or rather, to enjoy all the newness together with my students. I am reminded of the Gospel: "Behold, I make all things new". It is necessary to rediscover this simple certainty. My complicated life is built upon this simple certainty.

Now it is the evening before the first day of school. This year is strange: I am already tired, and I have the feeling that I have never stopped working. I look into my children’s eyes. My hope. They tremble, but they are not afraid, they are sure of a greater certainty than mine. I immerse myself in their enthusiasm. My expectation returns as well.

Read also – Change of plans

"It is night, as usual. You are joyful that now you will go to bed, you will disappear and in an instant it will be tomorrow, it will be morning and the unprecedented discovery will begin again, an openness towards things". I put this quote by Cesare Pavese as my WhatsApp status, as if it were the wall of my refrigerator on which I hang thoughts that intrigue me. A friend called me and to tell me that what I had written had struck him. Who would have thought! This gesture synthesises these last months and this new beginning: a face reawakens me, reality explains me to myself. Unbelievable. And I learn again that the Good Lord always gives me circumstances that I can bear. But not alone.

Maretta, Varese, Italy