It wasn’t Santa at our door, but it might as well have been

A knock at the door sent our three elementary-age daughters into a giddy frenzy.

News of a visitor over Christmas break had reached our home. It wasn’t Santa Claus the girls were waiting for, though it might as well have been.

Our third-grader beamed as her beloved teacher stepped through the front door, presents in tow.

Ms. Folsom had announced her plan to visit the girls ahead of the holidays, and to see my wife, Nicki, who had had our fourth daughter days earlier.

The girls gushed at the teddy bears they each received. Nicki smiled at a gift of her own: a sweater with “Mama Bear” emblazoned across the front.

No sweater for Papa Bear? “You’ll live,” Nicki told me.

We discussed afterward how thoughtful the visit was. As a former teacher, visiting students at home during my precious Christmas break had never crossed my mind. Plus bringing them gifts?

But it wasn’t Ms. Folsom’s thoughtfulness that stuck out most. It was watching her and Parlie interact. I barely know her. But to Parlie, Ms. Folsom is the real deal. We hear it in the way she talks about her teacher. And in how much she talks about her teacher.

They’ve established a full-blown relationship.

Perhaps it makes sense. In her 9-year-old world, she’s with Ms. Folsom more than any other adult, aside from us. Even during a global pandemic.

We’ve told our daughters how lucky they are to be in school with their teachers and friends this school year. Aside from a couple weeks off, they’ve been in their classrooms full-time.

Millions of their peers have been forced to navigate a year fraught with school closures and remote learning.

Like so many other aspects of the pandemic, the long-range impact on student-teacher relationships will emerge with time. Still, many have questioned how the pandemic’s assault on in-person learning will shake out.

Hechinger report editor Liz Willen probed some of the fallout last spring. Even then, teachers expressed longing for their students and lined up in their cars to honk and wave at kids stuck at home.

Idaho’s not immune to the realities. Aside from thousands of kids across the Treasure Valley confined to remote learning for the foreseeable future, thousands more have fallen off the state’s public K-12 radar entirely.

It’s “a helpless feeling,” one educator told EdNews in May.

Fortunately, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Idaho teachers and staff have the green light to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. Brad Little and state health officials announced Tuesday.

Still, many teachers and students will have to weather the impacts of the pandemic for months to come.

Or schedule at-home visits to see each other in person, where possible.

Parents, how are your kids handling limited interactions with their teachers? Teachers teaching remotely, I’d also love to hear from you. Email me @[email protected]

 

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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