Usually, the last day of the school year is the most fun. The classrooms are filled with joy. The younger kids have birthday parties for those who were born in the summer. The older kids are just excited about no more homework and no need to wake up early anymore. Those leaving for secondary school have the confusing emotions of the joy of leaving one part of their life behind, worry about beginning the new and sadness about saying goodbye to the teachers who helped guide them through the years.
The end of school is set early in September. Both teachers and students count the number of teaching days and begin the countdown. For us, it is supposed to be next week, but with COVID-19, it’s today. It is tough for the teachers, parents and, more importantly, the students.
In-class lessons only began a month ago. Our school has had it tougher, with 80% of our students still stuck over the border in Mainland China with no chance to complete their studies. The teachers have been teaching students in classes during the day than teaching online through Zoom in the afternoon. The double lessons and not being able to be in a classroom together have made it hard. Most learning happens when the teacher is not talking. It is learning from each other. The body language helps the teacher know if the student really understands or is just nodding in agreement. Online learning supplements teaching but cannot replace it.
For the graduating class, it has been the toughest. Students, parents, and teachers gather together under one roof to celebrate learning. The actual ceremony is long and drawn out for the kids, but not for the parents who have sacrificed a lot to help their children get a better life. With the virus – it is different.
In a Shenzhen hotel ballroom, most of our students gathered together to watch on a big TV what was happening in our hall. It looked like a party, at least through WeChat. At school, the ceremony was in the hall, but the parents weren’t there. They were in classrooms around the school due to distancing. There was picture taking after, but it still felt weird.
The sad part is this nagging feeling of not doing enough. There is more we could have done to help our students. Most teachers always feel there is more we can do to help. We have tried our best in a bad situation. For the right teachers, they will look back, reflect, modify and prepare for next year. All signs are pointing to next year being the same as this one.
As teachers, we need to prepare and be ready. The summer is upon us, but we need to do more.