WAY MORE THAN THAT. Another chronicle of the work we do that is still deemed essential.

This artist doubles as a dance and theater educator whose job description includes a near-constant exposure to angst and chaos.  Her young actors got to open and close their spring musical in one weekend due to the virus that has changed the face of life as we know it.

“It was really crazy to be honest.  We were finishing up tech for the spring play and felt it was a real special show, like last year’s was, and we were like, ‘wow, these kids have really pulled through,’ and it was like, ‘okay, there is some stuff going on and with this flu-like-thing.’  We were getting called into a massive meeting at the Multi-Purpose Room and they were telling us the school was going to shut down.   It was pretty much like, ‘there is this COVID-19, and this is what is going on…”

“We are the only independent school owned by a health institution so we had this inside scoop.  Which gave us power to get into motion right away.  And we knew exactly what to do, preparing to go online, training for one-off online teaching days.  Every teacher knew how to turn part of their curriculum online, but, it felt like we acted so fast, compared to everyone else.  It almost felt silly, at times, because we didn’t know the severity of what was going on.” 

“So, there we are (in the Multi-Purpose Room) the Wedneseday night before… we had Moms banging on the door saying, ‘we have to set up the faculty dinner, what are you doing?’ And we were talking about closing the doors for good and…. And the kids killed it for their preview (Of the spring Musical). They had an audience, and that night, after everyone was leaving, the Administration pretty much said, ‘we are now realizing we are not going back after next week.  We are telling you guys first to… if you want to refund the tickets and…make a decision.  So, we planned to jam pack the weekend and added two more shows, showed up for class and then… everything was closed.  So, it was… kind of rapid.” 

“And we fought to keep that Friday show, everybody wanted it, but nobody knew if we should have those many kids in the auditorium.  We had parents saying, ‘I don’t know if my kid is going to show up.’  We had parents’ frustrations and kids saying, ‘this is our show, you are taking it away from us… And it funny to see how stress acts in two generations of the same family, with ‘I’m going you kill you if my kid has to be here tomorrow,’ and the teenager saying, ‘noooo, you can’t do this, this is my life…’”

“Technically, none of the kids knew that after that Friday, they were not coming back to campus.  Mid-Thursday morning, it was decided, ‘no weekend shows, close tonight.’  They would get the Friday show and that was it. Kids didn’t know.  We were not allowed to tell them.”

“On Monday (three days later), there were murmurings, you know.  And we had to learn the how tos, do online block training.  Then, Tuesday we were told, ‘grab your things, please leave, don’t stay, don’t linger on campus, please go.’ 

“So, I recorded one of my last dance pieces with the kids so they could practice, because, not sure if you know this, but, it’s hard to do floor work and hand-stands in your living room.  Just sayin’.   We were doing backward rolls on mats, giant cartwheels – one of my kids…? She is 6’2’.”  So, needless to say, that didn’t go very well for her when she got home.”

“Yeah. I grabbed my office plant and I left.  B___ was in there laundering our costumes and saying, ‘let me clear this out and organize it, just in case… we don’t know how long we’ll be- and I have not been back since.”

That was Early March.   I asked her about doing remote learning.  To get at the truth of the day in reality of bridging the digital divide. 

“It was really interesting, you now. Matt, I live in a one-bedroom apartment … (laughs) You just have this thought, ‘oh my god, they are getting a glimpse into my life I am not comfortable with.  I teach theater and dance, there is no way we can do this without being up and moving.  And the dance was easy to cross over.  Okay, let’s do our warm ups.  Hold on, Miss K I got to put away my cereal…” 

“The upper-classmen, they just had the hardest time… getting them motivated to perform.  We had not actually done it, till the last month.  May.  That is how reluctant they were to perform.  I really pushed to have them on Zoom doing work like in some of my classes that I take, the intimacy, and I kinda wanted my students to experience that, and they were not into it.  That class struggled a lot. For them, it was more check ins, ‘this is so weird, Miss K, I hate it, I miss my friends, why did you cancel the show.’  A lot of misplaced frustrations.  Like we were choosing this, rather than also forced to do it. 

“The freshmen were totally into it, ‘cause they had no preconceived notion of what high school was, they didn’t know what to expect, they were like,  ‘this is cool, whatever.’  Happy to perform, happy to do group projects, easy going, kind of accepting… They missed their friends, but very much had an attitude of, ‘this is what I have to do.’   The older kids, the upperclassmen,  know the benefit of escaping home, and what that means; they’re more settled into what that means to them as person.”  

‘Certain kids are bored out of their minds, so I ended up giving them extra work, the over-achievers, you know,  they want to help out, and be of service, and then, the kids that normally struggle, are just struggling more. It’s hard.  Not personality wise. They say I miss you, Miss K.  The kids on meds, who can’t get their sleep schedule right, their parents breathing down their neck, they are the first ones to say, ‘I miss you.’  And the kids are grieving.  So much.  The person they get to be at highs school.  Social escape.  The life they set up for themselves.  We always think they are kids, and I’m like, ‘no, they are way more than that.’ 

“And kids are okay to tell you they hate it, and it sucks, I miss this and I miss that, and don’t tell you they want you to fix it.  And you would think you would hate talking about it, but it’s nice to hear somebody say it.”     

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