OpinionCoronavirus  

A Mom’s View: I Already Knew My Son’s Teacher Is Special. Her Socially Distanced Visits to Our Home Show What an Extraordinary Gem She Is

By Samantha Berkule Johnson | May 5, 2020

A version of this essay originally appeared on the Wannabe Aviatrix blog.

It’s day 50 of the COVID-19 pandemic for our household. My family has been incredibly lucky and blessed to be healthy and safe and staying put in our suburban house, with a yard and cars we can take for rides. We also have a swing set, a trampoline and the beginnings of a tent village on our lawn that would have rivaled Occupy Wall Street.

This manic Monday morning found me at 5:08 a.m. with the remote control in one hand, trying to find the correct episode of Max and Ruby for my 3½-year-old son. The keyboard of my laptop was under the other hand, attempting to fix mistakes in my online college course posting for Blackboard in time for it to be meaningful to my students, who have their online final exam tomorrow. This kind of multitasking has resulted in things like apple juice in my coffee cup and coffee creamer in an OXO straw cup. (Love those things, but we were finally having some luck graduating from them to open cups before this whole thing hit. We had also moved up from Paw Patrol but have regressed back to that, so I’m the one yelping for help. If you don’t get that joke, congrats! I don’t know how to play “Animal Crossing,” and you probably do.)

I don’t want to disappoint my students any more than I already have by trying to move an in-person advanced college seminar onto Zoom and Blackboard, with the computer angled away from the messy parts of my bedroom and the sweatpants I’m wearing, so I’m feeling the pressure to respond to them even more quickly than usual and to catch any mistakes made online as efficiently as possible, so fewer of them notice.

The Mondays are even Monday-er than usual during quarantine. Perhaps this was the case this morning for happy reasons: We had a glorious weekend enjoying the beautiful weather here in suburban New York. We were also treated to a social-distancing visit from my son’s wonderfully supportive preschool teacher. Even though my son is invited to more Zoom meetings than I am, he informs me when he is calm that he really wants to see people in person only in the places he’s accustomed to seeing them (i.e., school), and when he is less calm by crying and screaming and pounding the floor with his extremities. So, we’re taking a break. His teacher wants to make sure that they still have time together, so she’s been stopping by for outdoor social-distance visits.

I was already keenly aware of how special she is, but that she’s taking time out of her own day and whatever ups and downs she may be facing to personally visit and check in, and stay for so long, demonstrates even further what an extraordinary gem of an educator and human she is.

As if visiting weren’t fantastic enough, my son’s teacher made sure to take pictures of us playing outside. She snapped several of my husband, son and me, and we remarked on all the families engaging in front-porch portraits from a distance with local photographers. I have seen many families’ finished products, including close friends, and they look fantastic. Their hair looks beautiful and coiffed, they’re wearing pants that don’t stay up with the help of elastic, they look fit and healthy, and their faces look relaxed and stress-free. I have even had the privilege of having one of the wonderful well-known photographers who is taking these photos snap pics of my own family during normal times.

Yesterday’s social-distancing portrait was a little different: My hair was twisted into a wet bun, my stretched-out T-shirt did nothing to hide the minimum of 10 extra pounds I’ve gained since staying at home started, and my overgrown eyebrows and red, winded face definitely didn’t look so healthy. But at least I had on my “outside” pajama pants! The bigger win was that despite my misgivings about my physical appearance, the end result was a beautiful, happy picture full of love of the three of us. My son even looked directly at the camera and smiled, undoubtedly because his beloved teacher was smiling back as she snapped the image. I sent the photo to a friend with accompanying text that she should look at how fat I’ve become. She immediately responded that I should look at how happy we all looked.

Samantha Berkule Johnson, Ph.D., has her doctorate in developmental psychology and is a life and parenting coach living in the New York City suburbs. She is also a mother, wife, dog lover, psychology professor and private pilot.

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