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I’m not too superstitious and don’t always believe that the number 13 is unlucky. You see, I was born on Jan. 13, so I sometimes have birthdays on Friday the 13th, therefore I can’t believe it’s unlucky. Then came Friday, March 13, 2020. Whether I believe in luck or not, it was an unfortunate day.

I’m a sixth-grade ELA teacher. The weeks leading up to this day had caused some anxiety for many of us due to the spread of COVID-19. It turned out that this particular Friday the 13th was one that teachers in my state of West Virginia and others will not easily forget.

I recall what fun my students had during homeroom/breakfast time. They were being kids with some cars I brought in as a partial joke for one of my students who wanted a Lamborghini. They played together, made ramps, and were creatively playing the old-fashioned way — hands-on without technology and using social skills to work together (what an old art this is). I even commented to another teacher in the room that some teachers would frown upon the chaos of it, but what a beautiful thing I thought it was. The kids were playing together and getting along, problem solving, being creative with speed and air, and were laughing. The dynamics of my homeroom are diverse, thankfully, and they were having the best time. I felt like a proud parent as I watched them interact.

My classes worked on homophones that day, and we learned about the differences in a very social and interactive way. We would review the words and spelling, then kids would chime in with the differences in their meaning while writing the definitions — not super exciting, but the kids were in it and all were actively involved with keeping up. It was a good lesson, and they were learning. One student, who isn’t by any means studious, even said, “I love this! It’s so fun.” I wasn’t even doing anything worthy of notoriety, just teaching and interacting with my students, and they were all actively engaged.

As the day progressed, there was news of schools in the county closing due to the threat of the virus spreading. I recall scrambling to add some lessons online for students to be able to do that following week. This wasn’t the typical feeling of a snow day or another reason to be out of school. The uncertainty of it all was strange and scary.

By the end of the day when students were released to go home, I stood at my duty post looking out the window at students boarding the buses. I truly had to hold back tears with fleeting thoughts of not seeing them for a long time. I held it together the best I could.

Now, as I’m six weeks into distance learning and with only a few weeks of school left, I have a routine and have stayed busy trying to teach from home, keep up with conferences, and check in with my students. I am also trying to keep my own kids on task with their distance learning while also maintaining our life at home. While I’m glad we are staying safe, I am haunted by the memories of March 13th and how school as we know it is so uncertain right now.

Lori Bowen teaches English and language arts at Huntington Middle School.

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