Associate Vicar Wendy is holding the virtual pen for Jonathan as he takes a well deserved week away from the computer screen
‘The Government are trying to do a jigsaw puzzle, without a picture to guide them.’ (BBC news 20 May 2020)
‘The start of June can’t come quick enough….we can’t wait for our kids to be allowed back to school.’ (Parents currently homeschooling)
‘Delivering a few weeks of schooling is no way worth risking loss of life.’ (Teacher)
I’ve been pondering Jonathan’s questions posted last week about who should be prioritised when medical resources are limited, how we measure the value of a human life and what are the implications if we prioritise the young over any other group?
That question has come into sharp focus this week with the government’s announcement that schools could begin to re-open from June 1 beginning with the youngest pupils. As someone with 15 years experience of teaching in primary schools, including some hilarious years trying to persuade 4 year olds to sit still. (I’ll give a medal to anyone who can successfully socially distance 15 of them!)…. I’ve been following the debate closely.
I perhaps foolishly invited people to share their opinions with me and I now have enough material to write a short thesis on the topic, and, unsurprisingly, am nowhere nearer to a conclusion.
Interestingly, the parents were sharply divided, whereas the teachers were unanimous that it was too soon; they couldn’t guarantee safety- and that was always their prime concern.
A friend who is both a teacher and a parent summed it up in relation to her 4 year old: ‘I won’t be sending Mary back to school. She decided to lick our bannister today, because she thought it might taste nice!’
The debate about a 4 year old going back to school touches every nerve that’s been exposed by this pandemic. It raises questions about fears and the future, finance and who we put our faith in. It shines a spotlight on issues of poverty and discrepancies in educational provision. It has necessitated parents turning into teachers overnight and try to maintain ‘normality’ in often crowded, inadequate spaces with multiple ages and needs, perhaps whilst trying to hold down a job. It has turned teachers into technicians, Google classroom-ers, child-care providers, meal deliverers, social workers, scapegoats and miracle workers.
Of course we long for ‘heroes’ who can confidently put the pieces back in the jigsaw, offering the answers and certainties that global scientists are racing to find. We struggle to see the ‘new normal’ that has not yet emerged from the shrouds of ventilators and face masks. We long for a cool drink in a pub garden and coffee after church that doesn’t involve Zoom. We all want children to return to school, confident that they will be safe and happy.
There is a passage at the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, where John sees a vision of the ultimate ‘new normal’- a vision of the world restored by God to its intended glory.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more: mourning and crying and pain will be no more for the first things have passed away…..See, I am making all things new.’ (Revelation 21:4-5)
That time has not yet come. We all have to live with the uncertainty, to accept that we can’t plan or control life and that there are questions that no-one can answer, risks that will always part of being alive, long after Covid-19 has calmed. Perhaps we can focus on placing our piece in the jigsaw puzzle that looks like the ‘new normal’, pieces of love, hope, joy, trust and a lot of patience.