I’ve written to you before. My last letter was drafted in adoration for you because of the way you keep our kids safe in the face of gun violence —something you never signed up for, of course.
I wish this letter had a cheerier tone. Sadly, it doesn’t. And it is in response to something else you never signed up for.
It’s hard to believe it’s been so long since we said a quick goodbye. We didn’t put much thought into the casual “See you soon!” We had emotionally prepared for just a short time apart. And to ensure that time wasn’t wasted, you worked a miracle seemingly overnight. The tiniest of your students looked as if their backpacks might pull them over while they waddled to cars or climbed onto buses, their bags filled with all the material you had very hastily, yet very carefully, compiled for them.
I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a rough road since then. The kids miss you. And the parents really miss you. It took about 45 minutes of sitting in a makeshift home-school classroom (otherwise known as the kitchen table) to realize we never knew exactly how much we needed you, or appreciated you in the way you deserved.
This appreciation also goes to the bus driver. And the paraprofessional. And the custodian. And the counselor. And the cafeteria worker. All the staff. Those who were often in the building late into the night like principals, and those who were there occasionally like substitutes. You’re all important. You all contributed to making school a place that no matter how hard any of us parents try, the environments we create at home cannot hold a candle to your sanctuary.
But through the challenge of all this change and uncertainty, which caused our time together to be interrupted—and most likely cut short—we are so thankful for the time we did have. Even though there are projects and papers half-finished in classroom cubbies, hard planned field trips to be missed, and milestones to be celebrated in unconventional ways, every single day you spent with our kiddos was special. Yes, even the hard days.
You have devoted your life to being with our children more hours a day than we are. No virus will ever change how much that means to us. And in your usual superhero ways, you were able to create at home learning systems with hardly any notice, barely any training, hardly any resources, proving yet again how amazing you are.
And while it makes me sad to write this letter, we cannot forget the beauty in the special moments we would never have been able to appreciate without the distance learning. Like a fly on the wall, many of us have had a front-row peek into your classroom. We’ve always known you had a gift for communicating with kids. No matter the subject, your words and writing always found enchanting ways to leave imprints on their minds. And in order for those imprints to take shape now, we are often close by to assist with technology, and therefore, we are in earshot. And how special it is to hear your voice, your inflections, your excitement. No wonder they’ve always been captivated.
I wish it didn’t have to end like this. I think it’s safe to say we are still having a hard time processing that such an event could be the cause of this chaos. But even though our children’s time with you came to an end too soon, it brings us happiness to know that someone else’s child will get to spend their days with you in the future.
Your gift will not go wasted. Your love will always find a student who needs it—who needs you. Just like we did.
A thankful mama
Caitlin Clarkson Pereira is a proud mom, activist, advocate, speaker, and writer from Fairfield, Connecticut. She focuses most of her work on access to education, gender equality, gun violence prevention, and the rights of communities often silenced. She is currently the executive director of GVPedia, Inc. This non-profit organization focuses on gun violence research and data and is also a member of the opinion editorial team at the Hartford Courant. Caitlin lives by her personal mantra of “comfort zones are overrated,” and what inspires her is to inspire those around her. Please follow her on Instagram @CaitPer and on Twitter @CaitlinForCT.