My students start school tomorrow, but they won’t be coming into the building. I work in a school with a year round calendar, so it’s the earliest first day of school I’ve ever had. And since we’re still in a pandemic, they will be learning from home.

It’s been a strange start to the year. Our entire workshop week was virtual. I met my teaching staff over Zoom. I honestly don’t even know what most of them look like (I’m at a new school this year) because I’ve either seen them in a mask or in large groups on a screen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we are starting in this format. The idea of bringing 900+ children into the school right now definitely leaves me feeling panicky. Expecting children to social distance when plenty of adults aren’t doing it, seems a bit ludicrous. And masks for 6 hours a day? Yikes…

But tomorrow instead of seeing all of their big smiles walk through the door, I will see them drive through the parking lot as they pick up their learning supplies. They will have no idea what I look like because I will be wearing a mask myself.

I know our staff will be great, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about them. So many in education feel like they’ve been worrying about school since we closed down in March. What would normally be a time for relaxing and recharging for the new year, for many of us, this summer was one of wearing masks, staying home, and worrying about how we would handle school in the fall.

It doesn’t help that we’ve been getting constant pressure from some parents and leaders to open up. I keep hearing this idea of wanting to “get back to normal.” But this year isn’t normal. And it won’t be for a long time. The number of COVID cases in our area keeps going up (we added another 135 in our county alone over the weekend). Teachers are afraid to go back to work, and their fear is justified.

Tomorrow will be my 15th first day of school since starting my career. And it will be one to remember. Tonight I will go to bed, a mix of excitement and nervousness. After tomorrow, the journey begins to discover ways to better support students and teachers from a distance.