Ellen Watson will tell you that the first day of in-person learning for her students seemed like Christmas morning.
“They were all lit up,” she said.
For the first day of in-person learning, Sept. 3, students donned face masks and couldn’t hug their teachers when they came in the door. Watson, who said she is used to hugging students, has found other ways to connect.
“Yes we have a mask on, yes we can’t hug, but they can still see in our eyes our excitement and do the elbow touch and the little dance,” she said.
After months of preparation, the prepared protocols Frisco ISD has put together as a way to make in-person learning possible through a global pandemic moved from structured plans to real-time action.
As Pink Elementary Principal Danielle Record puts it, even their plans have plans. But Record, who notes that you don’t know how a plan will work until it’s implemented, reported a smooth first day of in-person school. For her, seeing the kids come through the door was a reminder of why educators do what they do.
“It kind of calmed some of the anxieties that were rising,” Record said. “When they got here, it was like ‘OK. We’ve got this. We’re here for you and we can do this.’”
At the same time, Record still feels what she calls “those tight-chest moments,” those moments when challenges present themselves. But she said her staff’s work ethic outweighs those moments.
In the runup to in-person learning, Watson had visions of hands on faces and incorrect face mask usage dancing in her head. However, she said, her students have kept their masks on. They’re aware of the rule requiring pumps of hand sanitizer for both entering and leaving the classroom. They can even have their own hand sanitizer on their desks.
“I think they take ownership of it and feel proud to follow the expectations,” Watson said.
She said she thinks her students understand the importance of keeping the mask on.
“I think the parents have definitely done their part to explain the importance,” she said. “If they want a mask break, we take a mask break shortly for just a few short minutes and then put it right back on.”
Watson said if she could tell her previous self anything, she would say to embrace each day and take it minute by minute.
“Nothing right now is without risk, and the risk is worth taking,” she said.